HERE PROBABLY isn’t a single Jewish house without piles of family photos and home movies, scattered in old yellowing folders and dusty photo albums. Nowadays people hardly print photos, not to mention enjoy the old ones. In an age of instant snapshots and online sharing, those memories we collected from 30, 40 or 50 years ago are left behind, as if out of context. Could the family photo album be dead?
I asked myself the same question while doing my Masters in Digital Anthropology at UCL and decided to go on a quest after the future of family memories in the age of Facebook and iPhones.
I investigated the culture of storing photos by focusing on JewishIsraeli families living in London and asking how traditions are challenged with the arrival of digital
SUMMER 2013 cameras and cameraphones.
Interviewing families showed that the contemporary Jewish household tends to document daily and spontaneous moments. It was hard for interviewees to define what makes them take a snapshot; it varies from a relaxed weekend afternoon to a grand barmitzvah. This is in contrast to the olden days, when cameras were used more formally, on important occasions or holidays. This shift, brought by the unlimited storage in memory cards, has a crucial influence on how we categorise our family photos in digital folders.
Many families first try to organise their photos when it comes to an important event such as wedding or barmitzvah, with the aim of screening a nostalgic slideshow. It is only then that they are faced with the mess they have accumulated on different devices — and up in the attic, where the records of their pre-digital years are slowly deteriorating. How can families overcome this and preserve their photos?
Digital technologies offer many storage options, which can be confusing. Different families have different perceptions of the “safest” place for their photos. A father who is living in London with his young family told me he doesn’t trust the fickle digital landscape