As I took a few quick snaps recently recording a last day in uniform and a last day at school, I realised I had already amassed a fair few such photos in the photo library of this phone. I realised in fact I had an entire mobile visual journal covering a period of almost three years.
My life is now marked, recorded defined and demarcated by almost 4000 photos. If anyone is shocked by that figure (but in this era of mega GB memory, who doesn’t have a similar hoard somewhere on some device?), it only comprises the images which have survived my ruthless visual culls. Goodness knows how many I’ve deleted. I do wonder how much more quickly my phone would run if I emptied the entire library, and of course it’s all backed up on the laptop and elsewhere, but there is something addictive and compelling about having my life and thoughts of the past few years so close to hand.
My library isn’t just photos; it’s also a repository for digital sketches and explorations and visual notes of the world around me. Through it, I can track whole thought processes and lines of enquiry.
It’s also a great diary. I can find things surprisingly rapidly and easily by reference to this visual timeline, and as I scan through at speed, my memories surface in a kaleidoscopic blur of colour.
But there is a disturbing fragility and ethereal uncertainty to these images. They may be technically backed up, but I have a vague mistrust of that whole process. More significantly, they have no tangible existence. Mostly, they remain unprinted. They are not really ‘photos’ in the traditional sense at all, but more of a private resource. Despite the wealth of fascinating information they might potentially offer to my descendants, they will never make it into an album, to be pored over by children exclaiming in glee at the look of times gone by.