On photographs and memories

Still remember times of photographic films. You had 36 shots, did not see the outcome. There was no automatic mode in a camera. Enhancing was non-existent for most of us. Only photographers knew how to retouch a picture. I remember the practice of asking people to make a photo of me with a famous building or a view behind. To memorize a place it was quite practical to buy postcards. You never knew, what would get of a shot you just made.  All photographs were printed and some selected ones carefully put into a photo album. There was no internet, so after a visit in a foreign county, photos were shown to friends and relatives.

JMA_Libya_105I was given my first camera (the films were black and white) as I was twelve and spent some time in North Africa. I liked photos I made. Still have some prints but the films got lost.

(On the photo: me and my first camera; in the mid eighties; in ancient Roman ruins of Sabratha or Leptis Magna, Tripolitania, North Africa [hope with all the war around in Lybian territory they are still in tact]; the photo is a scan of an old bias, but still I had to put a filter to cover color inconsistencies).

The same happened with photos I made as I was in my twenties. That time – I was studying, and later making my PhD – so I had more time to spare for travelling than today, however enough money to afford to travel by coach across Europe there and back. (There was no low-cost carriers that time). I scanned some of the old photos, but the quality is of course not comparable to that what we have today. Still I have however the original prints in photo albums of that time.

Today all changed. You can take a view you want many times. You see the picture as you make it. You can see what you did for a second or two, and so on and so on. Some people still print the best pictures. Some make only pictures of themselves (not counting in selfies), saying they can find everything else they saw in the internet. I belong to those, who do not like to have too many things around, so I keep only electronic versions, however in two or three copies.JMA_Sweden As the new technique appeared, I made many photos, selected them, made little enhancing and that was all. Virtual memories, no tangibles.

(On the second photo: about 15 years later (2001); me making a shot of a friend with her new digital camera; somewhere in Southern Sweden).

But, there was a moment I stopped making photos at all, as I would have a five or six years gap in my life. Not that I did not have an occasion. I traveled much in that time, but it was mostly Europe, and I visited the same cities or places repeatedly. For more than a year I even kept two regular apartments in two countries and 2000 km distance one from another. I did not have a need, or maybe I did not understand the overwhelming possibilities of the digital world. But three years ago I went on a trip to Portugal, and caught myself in erasing all music from a card in my cell phone to make space for photos. Although I did more than thousand shots, I did not like the quality of most of them. But still with a bit of photo shopping I selected a quite decent number. So, no regrets.


My first selfie with a cellphone (2014); Cabo da Roca, Portugal

But I decided to do something about it. I did not want to invest in a camera as I had no idea of photography. But I decided to exchange all miles I had for the best compact camera I could afford in exchange for them. Using the automatic modus I traveled Poland, England, and Scotland. Ending the travel season went to Rome for a couple of days. I managed to also take some time for shots, while being on a business trip to Brussels. At the end of the year I landed at something like eight thousand shots. I saved all originals, made a copy and worked on all the photos, cutting out those I did not like. Quite a Benedictine work. I put some of the shots I liked on Facebook visible only for selected friends. Of course, some likes came in. But still it was ‘see, like and discard’ process. I gave a try with making photos public on Google. That time I went through some trouble at work (managing people might be emotionally difficult from time to time), so I needed a distraction. For a moment I even got addicted to streaming.

But there was something good about it. Out of a blue I decided to take a course in photography, and for the first time in my life I heard of and understood the interdependence between ISO, aperture and exposition, not counting in the photo enhancing rules. The outcome – I bought me another camera, still a compact one, but with much better parameters than the previous one and went with photographers on a tour to Japan. I the meantime, in a spur of a moment I decided to open this blog, and made it my basic tool to sort out my travel and leisure time photos. As for a couple of years I managed a website of my Institute at a university, I had an advantage of knowing how to arrange the content. So it went relatively quickly.

Today, I no longer show my photos to friends or family in a traditional way. But each time they ask for, no matter the place, I can quickly browse them from the Internet.


My first deliberate and successful shot into the sun; Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, Japan. One of my favourite shots from Japan; only slightly cut, bit enhanced but with good ISO parameters it was possible, even if originally made as jpg.

But there was still the problem of making too many shots. To be frank I cannot resist, and this is fun, so why to stop. But with time, and following the advice of a professional photographer, I keep of course the originals but select the shots I like and copy them to another folder. Only then I start processing (cutting and photo shopping, if necessary). It saves time and effort. I think I changed the system last year in autumn as I was twice in Brussels. I had not too much time for processing, but I wanted to quickly publish the shots. (On the photo below: Statue of Bela Bartok, a Hungarian musician and composer, Brussels; my favourite photo made there last year; bit cut, with a filter, only standard enhancing)


Processing photos and writing posts turned somehow into a hobby of mine that is not taking too much effort but enough to help me to rest on busy or rainy days. I have all the memories sorted out, in a totally different way as in a traditional photo album, but it works for me. I think also that it was a good idea to make it public. Making public requires completing, even if this is step by step. These days I finally completed my selection of shots I did October 2015 in Rome (ups!). Still there are some comments to write. (Nevertheless, it is time for a new trip – already finished my reservations for Madrid.)

What is more, it is fun to share with others. Looking for information, on various things from cooking to historical notes, I often read entries by bloggers from all over the world. Participating in the network is common sense. And, seeing people practically from all continents go through my photographs and entries, sometimes staying for longer time and returning, is a nice feeling.

But thinking of the way of making photos in past times, and films that got lost in the meantime, I ask myself what would happen with shots and comments that I do today. Would they survive, as some old photographs of our families and of places that were done a century ago? Would somebody use them in future to understand the way we were living today? Or will all of those shots we make and publish on social media, blogs or stored in our computers, or external memory disks, just disappear with an electromagnetic wave? Or, what will be the next generation technique of recalling memories?  We shall see …


The Notre Dame of Paris; a shot made last month; bit straightened and cut with only standard enhancing applied; possible only with better ISO parameters; automatic mode.

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