Summing up your life in eight photos of happiness – it’s kind of irresistible. I’m an obsessive photo-taker and have been since I got my first camera from Santa about thirty years ago, so when Lady Nicci gave me the opportunity to try this post, I was immediately in. Well, immediately plus four months.
After years of watching my dad take photos (and develop them himself at home) I remember deciding around the age of ten that I needed my own camera, so asked for one from Santa. It was a dark-blue-coloured Kodak, long and flat, and I loved it. I took it on every trip throughout my teens, and when nights out became a thing, I brought my camera along to them too.
I remember the excitement of going back into the shop to collect my developed photos, opening the envelope and pulling them out, going through them – quickly first, then back over again, much more slowly.
There was lots of red-eye and blurriness; lots of shiny foreheads and pale faces. Fingers blocking corners and chopped off heads. There was no option to retake the same photo eight times, just to be sure of picking the one in which everyone looks great or at least has their eyes open. But no matter how awful the quality, they were all printed, and they were all carefully archived in photo albums. Which is why most of my “eight photos of happiness” are photos of old prints, red-eye and all.
1. The childhood
Some of my favourite childhood memories are of holidays around Ireland – Achill and West Cork and Wicklow and Kerry. That’s my dad in the photo, and I’ll say it’s me being held upside down but I’m fairly sure if my sister sees this, she’ll (quite rightly) point out that it’s her.
2. The first girls
I have three sisters. We were close growing up, and as is often the way, we’re even closer now. Even when we don’t always live close by. The nights out are the best – this was our one of our most recent.
3. The next girls
I met my best friends in 1987 when we all started secondary school together – I had moved from Cork two days earlier, and had abandoned my accent in a subconscious bid to blend. It worked – they took me in, and almost thirty years later, they’re still my best friends in the world.
I decided against an attractive school-uniform-and-acne group photo, and side-stepped the need to ask permission to share photos too – I went for a representative photo instead, from my hen party.
4. The college years
The college years were good, but the travel was great. I nearly died from the waves of nostalgia that swamped me when I looked through photos of my two J1 summers in Virginia Beach and my Erasmus year in Essen. It was impossible to find a photo of me on my own, and I didn’t think contacting people to say “Do you mind if I share that photo of the karaoke and the shots from 1995?” was a great idea, so I cropped myself (badly) out of one of hundreds of photos of those halcyon days, and for me, it represents all of it. Good times.
5. The boy
There can’t be an eight photos of happiness post without a wedding photo, so this is mine. I have no idea what he’s saying to me, but I think I look happy. It was eleven years ago and he hasn’t changed a bit – he still makes the BEST tea.
6. The babies
This is my first baby on her first birthday. She bravely shared that occasion with one of my best friends, who got married that day. That’s why we’re quite dressed up – it would have been a little OTT for a first birthday party.
7. The bigger-than-babies
Then along came two and three, and they all got big enough to take on day trips, like this one to Glendalough last year. I love the way they’re at the edge, equally hesitant about going forward – all in it together.
8. The adventure
Unlike those days with my blue Kodak, now I take hundreds of photos every week. And sometimes I stop snapping and just enjoy the view, as in this one taken by my husband on Killiney Hill last year.
There’s a view out there that we’re all spending too much time photographing and not enough time enjoying. I think we can do both. I don’t take photos just for the sake of taking them, or just to share on Facebook. I take them because I’m obsessed with holding onto memories, and worry that I’m forgetting important events and big milestones and small details. Photographs ground those memories and turn them into something I can revisit and enjoy over and over – red eyes and pale faces and shiny foreheads too. Though those ones might stay safely in their albums.