Savouring is the practice of focusing on and being attentive to the positive elements of an experience. It can be done for past experiences, experiences in the here and now and in anticipation of experiences yet to come.
In recent times I have been guilty of doing the opposite, of refreshing my news feed for all the doom and gloom that is going on, the anxiety of what is to come and the lost opportunities of the last two years. And frankly, that’s not helping anyone, least of all me.
I’ve recently started a project with my dad to digitise his old photos, and to video him talking about the people and events in and around those images. I’m going to create a video ‘album’ as well as a printed version. I had some objectives for the project when I started.
- Scan and preserve these old pictures in digital form
- Digitally restore those pictures which need a little love
- Catalog and store the originals in safe, acid free envelopes and boxes
- Enable more than one branch of the family to have copies of the photographs in future to prevent any argy bargy
- To preserve the oral history around the family members in the pictures and the social history around when they were taken.
What I hadn’t really anticipated was how much my dad would enjoy the process. We’ve only had one session so far, but he was really savouring the past as he sat and talked to me about the people and places. Memory is such a funny thing. We talked about things like the brand of milk he was given as a baby, the taste of the granite sand on the beaches of the Channel Islands where he grew up and the smell of his sister’s rubber bathing cap (not pleasant apparently). None of these things would ever be captured in the hard to read writing on the back of an old photo – although the names and dates that are there have been very helpful.
I’ve even set him some homework to collect other supporting documents and write down what he knows about the family tree and he is doing an amazing job of it.
It’s a big job for both of us, but I’m really enjoying the process, looking forward to the next session, and I know I’ll treasure the memories of spending this time with my dad and seeing his face light up with each new image we uncover.
It’s also made me really conscious of the role photography has in facilitating the practice of savouring. These old images are a mix of formal studio portraits, posed family shots, candid family snaps and street photography by the roving photographers of the 1930’s. The formal images were likely planned and saved for at the time. Framed and enjoyed in the home every day. The posed family photos were of gatherings and special events, a way to remember happy times with loved ones. The street photography images are little gifts – and I’m so delighted to have them.
Now that everyone has a camera in their pocket in the form of a smart phone we are all taking more photographs than ever. But I do wonder if we’re taking these images mindfully, and if we’re taking the time to savour them. That might be why I place so much value in the printed work as well as the digital. I wonder if my nieces and nephews will be sitting down with their kids in 60 years time flipping through their old iphone images and recalling the pandemic of the 20’s.
If you want to learn more about the science of well being I can thoroughly recommend Laurie Santos’ online Coursera course on the science of well being.