There was a time when an actual camera was necessary to take a photo. Therefore, photos of our lives pre- phone camera are not as plentiful as ones post camera phones. As we age there are more photos of us with people no longer alive. Yet, seeing those photos conjures up instant memories of their voices, and their effect on us. I love looking at photos of my mom and dad in Montauk. When my dad passed back in October 1999 one of his last sentences was about his desire to see “just one more Sunrise in Montauk.”
My kids are grown now, in their mid and late thirties. When I look at the photos of them playing at the ocean beach of a Montauk motel, both in single digit age, I remember the day. One might hope that one day my girls will show photos of me sailing in Gardiners Bay to my grandchildren. Of course, we now have video with sound, too.
Seeing the extent of the beach erosion in the old family Montauk photos is shocking, as is the mustache I had thirty years ago. Inspecting those old photos makes me wonder if I ever was in that good of physical shape? Now when I see recent photos, I wonder how did I get so old and out of shape? Damn those desserts and lobster rolls.
What fascinates me most is the magic through social media when folks I lost touch with decades ago produce photos of me from my deep past. Photos I have never seen before. We all sort of know our inventory of old photos of us, but seeing new ones of us taken eons ago is always an attention-getter. In those old photos you see things like old favorite sweaters, blue jeans and ski parkas. On the other hand, you also see things that you never realized at the time were “wardrobe failures.”
Remember, back then there were no instant photo deletes. Many times photos were sent out to be developed. Weeks later they came back in packets and weren’t really looked at except for the few good ones. In every packet would be a couple of out-of-focus shots, some accidental shots, and then a few keepers. Seems those prehistoric yet at the time already old “brownie” cameras were all we had. Of course, there were folks with very expensive Nikon or Minolta cameras but most of us had less expensive ones.
Then came the era of the throw-away cameras! One time before a deep sea fishing adventure I realized we didn’t have a camera. I ran into the tackle shop and bought a throw-away camera on sale for a few bucks! Me and my youngest brother John went out and had an epic day catching numerous types of fish. Many of them were keepers, with us snapping photos of them. Afterward, we brought the photos to one of those one-hour development places. Yes, we were that excited to see the photos.
After an hour when we went to get the photos, the man who developed the photos bizarrely asked us “how much did you pay for the throw-away camera?” I proudly responded it was on sale and I only paid $5! He looked at the packet of developed photos in his hand then looked back at us and said grimly, “You overpaid!” The photos were all out of focus, with weird color streaks caused by the sun. As crestfallen as we were by the quality of the photos, we laughed at how badly they came out.
In those days, without auto closeup, you would take a photo of something very cool only to get the photos back with the subject so tiny and far in the background that you couldn’t make out what it was. Now with our smartphones, we zoom in and know it is in focus.
As we all look to our futures, we sixty-something folks know we are on the clock. Spending as much time at east-end beaches, bays, and parks as I do, I take daily sunset photos. In the early evening, I always look forward to the immediate future, that being tonight’s sunset. Now I have a record of about 15 years of iPhone photos of Gardiners Bay sunsets, with many phenomenal short videos. I have used many of the sunset photos for articles. I even had a weekly showing of my sailing photos on this website a few years back.
The best thing about the future is how it surprises you. The future is uncertain, but it always has promise. You can’t capture that with a phone photo, but I always try.