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     Volume 5 Issue 106 | August 4, 2006 |

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Straight Talk

Capturing the Moment

Nadia Kabir Barb

It is inevitable that people and places change and life goes on. No matter how hard we may try to cling to the past or dwell in a world of memories or forgotten times, at some point we need to accept that we just have to move on. As time passes even our memories fade a little and the images in our mind become a little blurry. It as at these times that I am grateful that we have the ability to capture a moment in time and hold on to it through the medium of photographs. I am sure most of us have felt a pang of nostalgia every now and again when we have chanced upon an old picture of family or friends or even places that hold some meaning for us. In my opinion, somehow video cameras do not hold the same charm that photographs seem to have. [Maybe because it's much harder work to look at them.] Unlike videos, you can keep a picture of your loved ones in your wallet or purse, on a table or on the wall. It is a form of instant gratification.

I suppose this spell of reminiscing was brought about by the fact that I sat and went through a pile of old photographs in my mother's house a few days ago. As I looked through the piles of pictures, I felt as if I were in some bizarre time machine as the photographs took me from one period of time to another. My childhood mixed up with that of my mother's, photographs of my children alongside black and white ones of my grandparents. It was a very convoluted journey down memory lane. Some of the snapshots made me laugh out loud and cringe at the same time others made me feel nostalgic.

I came across pictures of my children when they were babies and I could feel a little ache somewhere deep inside. How quickly they grow and before you know it they are no longer the tiny little babies who are totally dependent on you. Suddenly they are individuals with likes and dislikes of their own, think for themselves, have opinions and act independently of us. Regardless of how much we would like to hold on to the feeling of being the centre of their world, we have to wake up to the fact that we may have to share that position with football, Scooby-Doo or even the latest music album. So it was with a certain amount of wistfulness that I put these precious photographs back in the cupboard. I can understand how our parents must feel when they see us not only grown up but with our own families in tow.

The shots of us in outdated clothes and hairstyles that we all aspired to in the eighties were truly funny. My children found these teenage pictures hilarious and questions such as, “did you really wear that outside!” and “what kind of hairstyle is that supposed to be?” were asked in between bouts of laughter. Then they had the audacity to threaten to publish them on the web -- luckily we came to an amicable compromise! Thank goodness we have the seventies and eighties behind us -- as far as I am concerned these two decades were fashion faux pas! When I see pictures of people in bell bottoms and shirt collars as big and as wide as their shoulders I can feel myself groan almost audibly. Then we stumbled across photos of my university days with my friends and it was strange how young and totally carefree we all looked. Little did we know that life with all its responsibilities was just around the corner and nor was I aware that I was sitting next to my husband-to-be! Compared to these, the black and white pictures of my parents and relatives in the sixties looked extremely stylish and sophisticated. It was wonderful to be able to get a glimpse into their lives before any of us had entered the picture -- literally!

Have you ever found that looking through old photos you have recollections that you had almost forgotten about? People that you used to know but had lost touch with smile back at you from the snapshots or memories that have lain dormant for years come back with a rush. Photographs can also be incredibly evocative and poignant. As I rifled through the pictures, I realised that so many of the familiar faces gazing at me were no longer with us. One by one members of the family have passed away and in some way it is comforting to see them captured on film and preserved in that particular moment in time. Looking at the pictures you feel that you can almost reach out and touch them. Having lost my father at an early age it was good to be able to show my children more pictures of their “Nanabhai” and also to refresh my own memory of him. Although we hold those we have lost close to our hearts, it is still a bonus to be able to see them albeit on celluloid.

I wonder if we did not have photographs whether we would remember half the things that have happened to us in our lifetime. I am sure we have the ability to retain the information but would we be able to access it whenever we wanted to or would we need a catalyst in the form of visual representation to jog our memory? As I am not in a position to answer that question, I am just happy that we can pick up an album whenever we choose to and delve into whichever moment we wish to. As we are the sum of all our experiences, I am sure if we put together a collage of photographs we could probably come up with a relatively accurate chronology of our lives!

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