I’ve been working on a mutli-year project to scan in all of the 35mm negatives of my photos. They go back to about 1985 or so and it has been quite a big project. It involves a lot of loading negatives one strip at a time into my scanner, labeling them and organizing them by time and place. It take a lot of energy and stamina. I expected that. What I didn’t expect is how much emotional stamina it would take.

Digging through one’s one past via photographs can be a difficult experience. What makes it so difficult is that photos are usually taken during happy times. I don’t take photos during boring or miserable times. There are no picture of people sitting around moping. All the photos are of happy times. Friends and family gathered round for parties, get togethers, trips, holidays or whatever the occasion. Everybody and everything looks so shiny and fun in the photos. That past is one hell of a great place so how come the present doesn’t hold up? That’s the emotional question that takes it’s toll.

It is not even a rational question. I’m no more depressed or unhappy now than I was then. In fact I’m generally a happy guy and tend to be an optimist but pain in the present is right here and now and pain in the past tends to fade. And with no photos of the past pain it is soon forgotten (unless it’s severe and traumatic but that is another thing entirely).

So it can be depressing giving constant attention to the happy photos of days gone by. Even as I smile some part of me asks, “why can’t every day be like a party” and resents that it isn’t. Even though I know I’m looking backwards through rose colored glasses part of me feels that they were better times. It is a tough thing. The present is full of the mundane details of life and we all have to deal with them. Exciting is so much better than mundane. But I’m finally almost finished.