My mom was a florist. She used to say you can always tell a florist by their thumb. Each floral stalk must be cut prior to refrigeration and cut again when incorporated into a design, so if the inside of the thumb is rough and slightly discolored, with tiny slices lining the soft padding, like a hundred tiny paper cuts, you’re talking to a florist.
She made incredible floral arrangements, from bouquets to centerpieces. She was a perfectionist in all things, especially her work. She believed not one flower should escape a bride’s bouquet the day of the wedding; if it did, it was shoddy workmanship, so she gave each bouquet a test drive by shaking it, rather violently. She would take a completed wedding bouquet and give it several pretty firm shakes up and down. I recall the first time I saw her do this and freaked out a bit.
“Mom, what are you doing? You are going to ruin that!”
“Honey, this is nothing. You know the abuse a bouquet takes during an actual wedding? If it can withstand this, it will hold up for the bride till the end of the reception.”
To this day, whenever I see a flower fallen from a bouquet at a wedding, I think of my mom in heaven, pointing down at that fallen flower with one and saying, “That should NEVER happen.”
Yes, my mom put a lot of time, thought, energy and attention to detail into everything she created. Her floral designs were impressive. People loved them. But no matter how beautiful they were, in a week or two, they were dead.
All that time creating exquisite floral arrangements only to end up wilted and brown and tossed in the garbage. Even as a kid, it pained me to see it.
I asked my mom once if it bothered her that what she worked so hard to create ended up in the trash. She said it didn’t. “Flowers are for the moment,” was her saying; they weren’t meant to last. Enjoy them NOW because they won’t be around long.
And I look around me at all the people taking photographs of all the other people. You can’t throw a rock in today’s world and not hit someone who considers themselves a professional photographer. (Every other rock hits someone giving workshops but that’s another post entirely. And a completely different analogy, one that has nothing to do with flowers but everything to do with fertilizer. *cough cough*)
All the pictures being taken. Millions and millions of pictures. And sadly, most of them are being treated just like cut flowers: enjoyed for a few weeks and then… gone. Digital files being shared, posted to social media, and then put aside somewhere. Downloaded from an online gallery and then left in some folder, remembered only when the computer crashes. And maybe not even then.
And make no mistake, these aren’t roses or orchids or lilies — things easily replaced. These are pictures of people. Precious people. (And if you know me at all, you know how rarely I use the word “precious.” This is serious, people.) Families. Babies. Children. High School Seniors. People that care about each other enough to have a picture taken. This is family history in your lens.
As an artist who puts thought and care and attention into what you do, how are you okay with NOT printing these images for your clients? Not sharing their importance? Not conveying the value of a print? Not creating something that LASTS?
Friends, photographs are NOT just for the moment; they are what we pass down to our children and their children and their children. They are a living record that says:
These are the documents your great grandchildren will one day hold in their hands. They will laugh at the clothing; they will be amazed by the hairstyles, but above all, they will marvel that the person in that old photograph is smiling back at them from a face that looks much like their own. And looking at that old family photograph, they will realize again or, for the first time, that they are part of something much bigger than themselves. They will hold history in their hands.
Folks, this is why we print.
There are a lot of things in this world not meant to last…photographs aren’t one of them.
Print what you want to preserve.
About the author: Missy Mwac is a photography satirist, a lover of bacon, a drinker of vodka, a lover of sparkle, and a guide through the murky waters of professional photography. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can connect with her on her website, Tumblr, and Facebook. This article was also published here.
Image credits: Header photo by Cheryl Winn-Boujnida