My iPhoto Library is Worth 6,000,000 Words. Or Nothing.

From the middle of the night….not too long ago…


Who knows what is captured here.

Who knows what is captured here.

I can’t sleep because I am afraid that the iPhoto library which my computer is “unable to access” at the moment has been lost for good.

I have various (incomplete) back ups.  Hundreds of photos in Shutterfly, hundreds on Facebook but I don’t have a handle on which images have back-ups and which images do not.  I don’t have a clear sense of what would be missing if in fact this temporary block to the iPhoto library turns out to be a permanent one.

Nevertheless, the potential loss feels huge.

With the aid of a cell phone I have been simultaneously recording my life as I am living it. Given how quickly these years are elapsing, the volume of the loss seems that much bigger.

These pictures–of the thousands of them—I know that some of them were fantastic, “perfect” depictions of priceless moments (the image of my daughter un-selfconsioussly admiring herself in the mirror) and others were not.  For example, before this (let’s hope temporary!) denial of access, I had planned to delete about 150 pictures that had been taken by my daughter over the span of about 2 minutes at lunch one day on the ski slope.  I remember the lunch because I was so happy to be with one of my best friends from college.  We had been chatting, catching up, and I hadn’t even noticed that my daughter had snatched my phone.

Without my knowing, she snapped photo after unattractive not-facebook approved photo of me in virtually the same pose, twisting my hair while talking to my friend.  This set of portraits captures a set of candid moments, a real slice of life: I am in the middle of a ski day, talking with a best friend, the snow is good, and I even had managed to find a place to sit for lunch at the ski lodge.  The photos show me as my happiest, least self-conscious, “quintessential” hair-twirling, me.   I can’t wait to delete them.

But the others?  All those photos and  EGAD! THE VIDEOS!!!!  Oh lord, lets please hope the videos are still there.

Okay, assuming the iPhoto library can be restored, what will I do with it?  Will this enormous volume of recordings that could be reconstituted to simulate the greatness of an actual life, be anything more than a pile of unsifted data?  Will I ever get around to printing a picture I can look at without clicking a mouse first?

Extracting the “good” photos from their virtual haystack is so daunting.  It combines the tedium of sifting with the soaking pain of nostalgia.  To have to scroll through all those moments recorded and stacked on top of each other–that bounty of what was but is no longer– makes me reflect more on the fact that those good times have passed than on the good times the images were meant to capture.

The volume itself, exaggerates the pain.  Having to look through all those often virtually identical pictures, taking time to agonize over which could and should possibly be deleted, before deciding “Oh why not keep all of them after all,” it is exhausting!  Plus, it presents a machine gunfire of reminders, hitting me with image after image of my unlined forehead.  “Oh God, I looked so young!” becomes, “Oh God, I looked so young so many times!”

It hurts.

So if I did lose the 7000 photos, or was it 6000?, at least I will have gained an opportunity to live life in the present.

I was home at my parents’ house over the holidays and I happened to spend a little time looking through their old photos.  I even snapped a few images of these which I may or may not be able to recover from my iPhone library. But, since my parents have actual photographs in actual books I will be able to recapture these at some point.  I also found a scrapbook that contained photos of my grandmother and a collection of letters between my grandmother’s grandfather and his mother, that had been written when he was in boarding school after she had sent herself to India to be a servant in order to pay for it.

Hard to describe in few words, but that scrapbook is precious.  I didn’t manage to glean much from my first quick look other than that I am related to a person who frequently and without irony referred to her son as “My Dear Boy,” and to herself as “Your Adoring Mother.”  This physical artifact, brittle sheets of black paper bound up in a slim volume, was something one could imagine extracting from the dusty shelves of an old bookshop in London.  That the scrapbook was actually stored in a white particle board bookcase assembled in my parents’ basement circa 1980, did not detract from its charm.  That these 19th century lives amounted to anything, that lasted until now even  is extraordinary.

I should have taken a picture of it.

I imagine my great-great-great grand daughter coming across my (let’s hope) restored iPhoto library more than 100 years from now and I wonder, would she be thrilled to find the 6500 photos of my ski trip to Breckenridge?  Countless selfies from every angle?  An equal number of the back of my son’s head as he tried to keep me from getting a picture of his cute face?  My daughters’ infinite wardrobe changes? What I ate? What I cooked? Hundreds of photographed receipts and notes that I texted to my husband to remind him to submit items for reimbursement?


But if I hardly had time to absorb one scrapbook from my ancestors’ past, would anyone (including myself) be able to appreciate all the fantastic moments I have captured in my enormous, unorganized, and POSSIBLY LOST!! iPhone library.

Probably not.

Obviously, it is much more important to live your life well than to make a good recording of it.   Going forward, I should remember this along with the corollary proviso that the effort to get a good picture of “the moment” can undermine my the ability to enjoy any moment.

Especially when all those photos can be rendered suddenly and inexplicably inaccessible.

About MotherJam

Trying to be insightful. But mostly just avoiding housework and ignoring my children.
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One Response to My iPhoto Library is Worth 6,000,000 Words. Or Nothing.

  1. Lois Roelofs says:

    Too funny! And I’m lamenting my boxes of unsorted photos and bookshelves full of ancient albums. I must do something with them before my kids pitch them. Plus my smaller accumulation of digitals like yours! It’s all just too much to spend months living in the past just to get back to the present…

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