The Importance of the Photograph

My father passed away a month ago, and his birthday was on August 31st. I’m letting that sink in. Death is never easy and for those that have lost a parent, it has a certain significance. The person who has been there your entire life is now gone. There are things that I am now thinking about that hardly, if ever, crossed my mind. The biggest being that I am mortal and I too will meet the same fate some day, and the other, related to photography, is the importance of the photograph.

I am camera shy. This has been a fact most of my life. I believe it is one of the major reasons I took up photography. I am never in the picture because I am taking the picture. As a husband and father of two amazing little boys, I have to rethink that strategy.

With my fathers passing I realized just how important images of him are to me. The above image was taken at his 80th birthday party. It was a wonderfully happy occasion. All of his children were present and were able to enjoy this moment. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to make this image. I now have it and will cherish it until I am gone.

The photo also made me think, what do my children have to remember me by? There are very few images of me. My wedding and a few random images (my wife made me pose for) are all that I have. I realized that I want something more for my boys and friends to remember me by. I want images that reflect me and the things I love, so I now am embarking on a journey to do just that. I am adding it to my list of personal projects.

My Dad, 1944 or 45? We believe my Grandmother took the image of him in Arizona, Spring Training, Chicago Cubs. A memory for forever if we make it happen!

That brings up the question: what do I do with these images after I take them? I could leave them on a hard drive in the hopes that my family will discover them before they are crushed in the nearest landfill or I could put them in a format that can be passed on for generations.

I am spoiled by the fact that my wife loves to scrapbook. My goal is to give her printed images every year for inclusion in the books that she creates. Does this feel a little narcissistic? Yes! But it is something that I’m willing to make happen for my family in the hopes that it helps them remember me and the fun that we had.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to set up photo shoots with me as the subject. My goal is to be more present in the images when the moment strikes. This may mean bothering the nearest passerby, or whoever happens to be in close proximity, to help. The goal is to be in the images when they happen.

In my opinion, history is being deleted by the terabyte. Hard drives are being smashed in landfills, with millions upon millions of images on them. How many images are left on that little card you insert into your camera that never make it to your computer or the images from your phone that disappear because your phone crashed or you replaced it without backing up the images? So my goal is to start printing my favorite, and best, images.

In addition to the images for the scrapbook, I will also begin creating Annuals. By Annuals, I mean a collection of my work from the year, including my best images from each shoot to place in a photo book, marked with the year they were created and background info regarding the shoot.

So when a situation arises, family is gathered, a significant event or just something that warms your heart happens, make the image happen and get in there — your family and friends will be glad you did.

About the author: John Wineberg is a lifestyle photographer, artist, blogger, and podcaster based in Sonoma County,
California. You can find more of his photos and writing on his website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This article was also published here.