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What to do with 1500 iPhone photos from 2013?

First grandkids & first digital photo

Published in ChicagoNow, January 2, 2014

Both of my daughters have a problem. Their memories of 2013 are clogging up their phones, making it impossible to take new photos and videos without randomly deleting old ones. Yes, they could download them to a computer, but that just clogs up the hard drive, and then what? I have been struggling with this issue annually since I entered the digital photo era in 2003.

Ok, I’ll confess, I have 32,729 pictures in iPhoto on my Mac. There are probably 300 of my husband and me on various vacations, and 429 of our kids’ weddings. So that leaves only 32,000 pictures of my grandkids! Like a hoarder, I can’t seem to let them go. I have them downloaded to Snapfish and backed up on DVDs, but I still can’t delete them. How do I let go of pictures like these?

When my kids were growing up, we took slides and rarely made prints. So my photo albums spanned several years and mainly focused on special events like birthdays and vacations. At some point, we realized no one wanted to sit through slide shows of our kids, not even us. So we switched to Kodachrome, immortalized by Paul Simon:

You give us those nice bright colors

You give us the greens of summers

Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah!

I got a Nikon camera

I love to take a photograph

So Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away

I lovingly put our prints in non-archival albums where they turned a ripe brown color. So much for that vision of the 70s.

As the years went by, albums were filled with pictures of family trips to national parks, ice skating shows, graduations, engagements, and marriages. By the time our twin granddaughters were born in 2003, I had albums by the dozens stacked in our family room. And then came the perfect storm – grandkids and digital cameras.

It was now possible to take countless pictures of every nuance of their development, supposedly keeping the best and deleting the rest. But I could never let go of any of them. If one picture of that first smile was great, then ten were even better. How to decide which one was the cutest when I loved them all? And so, my collection grew.

I continued printing the ones I loved but now I could edit them (making them even more special) and print them at home on my computer. As each new grandchild came along, my collection of photo albums overran the house. As an added bonus, I could now make slideshows set to my favorite songs of the grandkids and vacations. Once again, I discovered no one wants to watch them, not even my grandkids (the stars of the show) more than once. After 40 years, I am back where I started with photo books instead of albums and unwatched DVDs.

So when my daughters asked me what to do with their iPhone history of 2013, I said, “Get an app. Make an album.” Even though my 50 albums mostly reside in the attic these days, they are my precious memories. I can turn the pages and watch my life evolve. I can’t look at 32,000 pictures on my computer, but I can enjoy the photo book I made for 2013 over and over.

As I look at the actual photos in whatever format I was using at the time, I hear the Simon and Garfunkel refrain from Old Friends/Bookends:

A time it was

It was a time

A time of innocence

A time of confidences

Long ago it must be

I have a photograph

Preserve your memories

They're all that's left you.

Your iPhone can die. Your computer can crash. Hopefully, your precious photos are floating around somewhere on the Cloud. But there’s nothing like a printed photo that lasts longer than the 10 seconds of a Snapchat image to capture the most important things in life.

So here’s my New Year’s resolution for 2014. I will do a few pages of my photo book every month so it is not such an overwhelming chore next December. And I resolve to try to keep my photo library down to a mere 2,000 pictures this year. LOL – I know I won’t do either.


by Laurie Levy
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