I used to think that it was sacrilegious to throw out a photograph. Photographs are memories and aids to memories. Once they are gone they are gone.
I have boxes and boxes of unsorted and mostly unlabelled photographs from my childhood. Yesterday J & I faced the mountain.
It wasn't a harsh cull. I mainly tried to sort them into groups – family, friends, moments in time. Then I noticed that some photos were so dark or blurry I couldn't even work out who was in them. But they were in the collection because in the Dark Ages BDC (Before Digital Cameras), every photo got printed up. Often twice, as double prints cost only a little more than single prints and there was often at least one photo that needed to be shared. So out they went, those indecipherable dark and blurry space stealers.
Then there were the animals. As a kid, I'd go to a farm or the zoo and take pictures of the local wombat or rooster or (in one case) albino peacock. Did I really want those photos? Did they mean anything to me? Toss, toss, toss.
And who were the photos of anyway? I faithfully kept all photos of family or friends of my parents, even snapshots of my late mother's workmates. But with my own pictures I could be harsher. 25-year-old photos of people I had met once on camp and never kept in touch with? Gone. Six nearly identical photos from a school reunion (obviously someone had snapped the camera 3 times and I had ordered doubles) I culled down to one memory. Pictures from a hideous trip with nasty people I had attended for work purposes in my 20s – good-bye and good riddance to most of them.
It was possibly the most emotional declutching job I have ever done and it is barely one third over. I could have done a much harsher cull and maybe one day I will. There are still probably hundreds of duplicates – not the least being generated by my American in-laws who sent multiple copies of expensive professional photos of our niece in America . Why on earth did they think we'd want or be able to use six identical pictures of her in each pose?
The pictures are currently organised into only the vaguest sub groups and most still need labels. Speaking of which, I ended up throwing out a number of photos of babies that had been sent to me by friends and acquaintances in the 1990s. I had no idea who they were or how they could be identified. "My sweet little angel aged 2 months" does not help me identify which 10 year old he/she is today.