This weekend I finally decided to organize my photo library. I have to admit, I’m far behind the digital revolution and I still haven’t migrated all my files to the cloud. It’s not a surprise, given that I get a mild panic attack every time my Samsung uploads photos from my phone to the online account. Almost fainting, I need to compulsively check the privacy settings of my photo albums to make sure they’re not for all two of my Google+ followers to see.
So my digital spring cleaning was happening on my hard drive and flipping through countless folders, sub-folders and files was a nightmare. I discovered thousands of photographs from my four months trip to South Africa that I haven’t even properly looked into, random Skype snapshots, inappropriate selfies with ex-boyfriends, imported WhatsApp photos that somehow found their way to my folders… I felt like all my life in images is trapped in this little black device, never having seen the light of my Facebook Wall and never having felt the flattering tickling of other Facebookers’ likes.
Since I was a little girl an idea of a scrapbook enticed me very much. A possibility of choosing a selection of images that best reflect the milestones in your life, briefly sum up the biggest achievements and show off the greatest adventures. This would be a kind of collection of highlights that Facebook automatically (and randomly) pulls from your profile at the end of each calendar year and composes a neat sideshow that your friends would then eagerly comment on.
Scrapbooking in itself is a soothing practice. There is something therapeutic about going through memories, selecting the ones dearest to your heart, and imprinting them forever on colorful pages (given that a scrapbook does not fall victim of a natural disaster of some sort, be it fire, flood or just plain human forgetfulness). Decorating the photo with drawings, descriptions, and quotations gives it a more multi-dimensional aesthetic quality. The picture then merges with the written word, with literature or tradition, and by doing so grounds your memory in history, imprints it in the flow of time.
But I never made a scrapbook. Or, rather, I started many but could never keep on pasting fresh memories onto the blank pages. Doing so has a certain finality to it. Acknowledging something as a memory paralyzes a still living, vivid experience. I could never bring myself to lock my memory between two covers and, literally, close a chapter of my life for good, admitting that from now on it can only lend itself to nostalgic reminiscing.
I much rather collect bits and pieces of my memories in form of cinema tickets, bills from bars with too many wine glasses mercilessly printed on them, and cards from restaurants in which I would end up by pure chance. I would then place all of those pieces of paper in random places only to come across them months later between book pages, in my calendar, or in a pocket of my summer coat, and suddenly be entirely overtaken by this one specific memory.
Watching a scrapbook, a photo album, or an entire slide show from holidays past is like getting drunk on memories. You just down all of them at once, only to find yourself in a state of a melancholic hangover of the soul afterward. A moderate dosage of memories, re-living one of them one day, reminiscing another one a week after, is much healthier. It keeps your emotions alive among your daily routines and can brighten many of your ordinary days.