You may have seen the news story about the recycling-center manager in Lerwick, Scotland, who recovered two plastic shopping bags stuffed with photo transparencies. The 300 slides depict life in the rugged Shetland Islands archipelago, images of men and women working and playing with boats on the North Sea in the 1960s. Paul Moar, who recovered the slides, had each one digitized so these memories could be saved.
The 77-year-old owner of the slides was cleaning house and, since his projector no longer worked, didn’t see the point in saving them. I can sympathize. When my father passed, he left me with about 40 Kodak carousels, each in a yellow-and-black box, holding thousands of images that chronicled our family life. Fortunately, the projector still functioned, and working on winter nights, I edited the slides down to 240 “keeper” images. The collection ends in about 2000, which is when my dad got a digital camera. He didn’t stop taking pictures for the last decade of his life, but except for the images I recovered from the chip in one camera, I have no idea what became of the many pictures he took.
Digital photography was also the demise of the beloved Braggin’ Board at the Lake View Inn. Generations ago, this cork bulletin board was placed on the wall between the front door and coat rack as a display for snapshots of happy anglers with big fish, or kids with small fish, along with event posters and the occasional hand-lettered advertisement. “Wanted: Woman who can back a trailer, clean fish, and owns a good fishing boat. Send picture of boat.”
Every few months, bartender Wally would remove some of the photos from the board and toss them into a shoebox he keeps under the bar, making room for new pictures. That shoebox holds the history of the Lake View Inn. Just last week, Wally and I dug through the snapshots and found a photo of my good friend Chuck Larson with his first wife holding a fish, and a photo of his second wife holding a fish—we all miss his second wife the most. But his third and current wife is of the digital age. There’s no snapshot of her holding a nice pike.
Wally replaced the Braggin’ Board with a video screen that scrolls through digital photos loaded into its memory, but not many people use it. The big fish photos go on Facebook now, and Wally refuses to start a Lake View Facebook page because “if you’re not a customer, you must be the product.” The photos taken by this current generation will never make it to a shoebox under the bar. Those bits of history will be lost in the Cloud, stranded on an abandoned Google Drive or IDrive account to which nobody knows the password. If there’s no photo of Chuck’s third wife, does she even exist?