Kodachrome only failed me once. Actually I failed Kodachrome. It was 1986 and having neglected to catch the small holes of the film in the teeth of my Canon, I took not one photo of Boston. Not one swan boat or capture of Faneuil Hall and though the memory of these things are there, the visual markers are absent. I don’t know what I would have done with the photos even if they were there. That story is long gone and rarely thought of and I don’t do the TBT thing, not that I would with Boston anyway in spite of it being a fine city.
In 2009 Kodachrome died. It is not too much to say a part of everyone who owned a 35mm died that year too, but most of us, having acquired digital cameras, were content to live in the era of instant gratification that would last. I say “that would last” because it was not the first time instant gratification captured the imagination.
In 1970 my family went to the PX in Balboa Panama and purchased a Polaroid. It was a thing of beauty that negated sending in the roll of film from our Instamatic that would come back weeks later. Though the quality of the photos were not great, there was something about them that was magic. You snapped the shutter and a picture came out. After waiting several seconds, you would pull off the film over the picture itself and shake it watching an image appear. It took a minute and not weeks to see your memory. And it was a memory…..for Polaroid film like rolls of Kodachrome were not cheap, which made every shot a thing to be thought out. The baby got five photos and perhaps, just perhaps, the cat got one. Your dinner got none. After all you were capturing the best of times, not every moment in life.
It is different today. We snap with abandon. A memory card can hold thousands of shots and our hard drives hundreds of thousands. I remember my Canon with its rolls of 35mm, but I too have succumbed to temptation. Those thirty plus pictures of Boston are never to be had, but since then I have captured thousands of photos of things greater and more mundane.
In the age of DSLRs, 40 megapixels on a smartphone and personally having access to more than 8000 pictures on a pc or droid, I don’t know my favorite photo of the lot. I do not think of it. At least not until today when I listened to a song by George Clay. The lyrics begged an answer to a question we no longer ask and one that we do not wish to ask if only because the answer is to a question that is too much to ask. The question is “what is our favorite picture?”
I think only briefly of my answer, though I am quickly dismissive. After all, it is silly to have a favorite picture anymore. Besides I do not want an answer anyway, because it would give me the occasion to think. I am content with the digital era with its ever changing profile pictures and banners. I am content with 8000 photos and throwaway memories that may be nothing other than food and cats. A favorite picture is too much to ask. It could be digital or it may well be an image captured on Kodachrome or Polaroid, but it would certainly be one of a very real person and a very real place and I don’t want to think of these.
If I had an answer, it would be too much. Like George Clay, I may find myself saying: “My favorite picture of you is the one where you’re staring straight into the lens. It’s just a Polaroid shot someone took on the spot….my favorite picture of you is bent and it’s faded and pinned to my wall. You were so angry it’s hard to believe we were lovers at all….there’s a fire in your eyes, you’ve got your heart on your sleeve, a curse on your lips but all I can see is beautiful….the camera loves you and so do I. My favorite picture of you is the one where you’re staring straight into the lens.”