A photo-album

Above: A physical photo-album for displaying photo-prints. Credit: Valeria Boltneva.

An Old Man Reminiscing

One of the activities that an old man (or a woman, someone over seventy let's say) has typically enjoyed (in the Developed West at least), since a hundred years or more (beginning circa 1910s), is sitting and reminiscing while leafing through a photograph album of old photos--recalling enjoyable or poignant memories about long-ago days.

The photo-album was a plain-page book, approximately A4 size, maybe square, maybe portrait- or landscape-format, which could be purchased from any one of several different chains of shops and/or independent sellers. In England, for several decades, one of the most typical and popular shops where people picked up such an item was Boots--Boots the Chemist--a health-and-beauty chain ("Drugstore") which has always, historically anyway, boasted a popular photo-department with film processing as well as rolls-of-films for sale, reprints-and-enlargements, photo-frames and, photo-albums. The purchaser of any such photo-album would ordinarily take some print-outs of photo-snaps and manually arrange and stick-them-into the book pages, often in a fairly personalized and unique way, perhaps with hand-written captions also added (e.g., Doris and Sheila, Gateshead, 1984).

Early in the Digital Revolution (around the late-1990s) the use of inexpensive negative-film-processing and photo-snapshot print-outs (5x7 inches) was superseded by digital-camera captures onto a data-card, which would be transferred at some point from the digital-camera to a laptop or PC storage--or maybe an external HD. Then, beginning around 2008, at the start of the Smartphone Era, it became common for one's digital photos to reside on one's phone on the phone's internal storage. These photos could be sorted into sub-folders. Then from around 2015 onwards, one's smartphone-based digital photos were typically auto-indexed using visual-component recognition and facial-recognition software--making one's photo-archive searchable by word-based search-terms including a person's name, a location, or a specific object, etc.

Fifty years from now, when the first generation of digital natives are in their seventies, their photo-based reminiscences are unlikely to be aided by a physical photo-album. This will have been replaced by some format for reviewing digital images (maybe still just their beloved phones). The device might be controlled by voice-command, and the photos will be super-searchable so that a user will be able to command, Deckard-like: "show me all photos of Harry," or "Give me all pictures taken in Margate," etc.

Old people using old photos as an aid to reminiscing is entrenched in Western culture, and is not likely to disappear as an activity--looking back over one's life this way is far too enjoyable and poignant for it to stop altogether. But precisely how it happens is sure to evolve, and in fact it already has evolved since the physical photo-album has not really been current as a general domestic object for ten-or-fifteen years already.

(15 October 2018)