I recently stumbled upon a random stash of childhood slides and had them digitized. It reminded me of just how much things have changed between when I was a kid and the instant gratification of today where you can snap a pic and share it with the world in an instant.
For a long time, my parents had a camera that produced slides and, every now and then, they would haul out the projector and show us the memories of our youth. Anyone else remember those flash bulbs?
I guess the next step in the process was dropping the film off somewhere for development, like a Fotomat. However long it actually took to develop film was excruciatingly drawn out by my parents’ lackadaisical response time for picking them up. I suppose the modern-day equivalent would be when I drop off something at the tailor to get hemmed or fixed and have to be reminded a month later to come pick it up. Throw in the further hindsight of being a parent, and realizing that it was always a crap shoot that ANY of the images would be worth keeping, and it’s a wonder that my parents ever took any pictures, much less paid for the privilege to see them later.
Then Polaroids came on the scene and changed everything! The film itself was crazy expensive, so at first, only the most important events could be documented, but I have several “action” shots that prove the novelty and importance soon wore off. Kind of like a reverse SnapChat, where the picture appears out of nowhere as opposed to showing up and then disappearing once opened like a Mission Impossible message.
In college, someone had the ingenious idea of having a photographer at our various sorority and fraternity parties. Ingenious because the drunker people got, the more photos they tended to be in (likely precursors to today’s photobombers) and subsequently buy. A few days after a party, a big print sheet with tiny thumbnail shots would appear and we would all pore over them in our pjs before class. Not as much of an unknown as slides, but you still couldn’t always tell from such a small image how good the picture would be when printed to 4 x 6 dimensions. By my senior year, I was convinced that being the party pic guy was about the worst job you could have, maybe only tied with the late shift delivery guy at Pizza Shuttle who was forever getting stiffed on tips and harassed by drunks in need of pizza (as I typed this, I sang their phone number jingle to myself while looking them up on google, delighted that the # is also their IP address!).
In my 20s and 30s, disposable cameras were all the rage, especially at weddings, where the bride and groom hoped to add candid shots to those they paid a professional photographer to take. It usually ended up with any nieces and nephews under the age of 5 in attendance making off with most of the cameras and the newlyweds paying to develop a ton of pix taken at knee height. Disposable cameras that worked underwater were also a super cool invention of that time, but I soon learned that if I can’t take particularly good pix on land, taking them underwater is not really in the cards, either. Cue lots of blurry pix of fish, goggles, and flippers.
So, while there is something to be said for both the old school way of taking pictures, (waiting for the film to be developed, and then selecting the very best one for the perfect frame and the perfect place in your home or office) and the modern day equivalent (of, say, a digital frame with scrolling images akin to a “best of you” montage as no one posts bad pictures of themselves), I’ll leave you with this picture from my cache of slides. In today’s world, it would immediately be deleted, but all these years later it made me laugh to come across it and wonder: How on earth could blowing out candles on my birthday cake drive me to make a face like that? And why was I still wearing shirts with ironed-on cuties like a koala when clearly all of my cooler friends were already into the button-down oxford shirt fashion?