By Dana Harvey

A printed photo makes memories more tangible and vivid. It allows us to re-experience a moment in time we might have otherwise forgotten about.

In a digital era, such as ours, social media has become our universal photo album, we have smartphones that can take professional-quality portraits, and we have iCloud or other online storage systems to save endless images. I was never one to print my photos and it wasn’t until my daughter was born that I rediscovered the significance and importance of a printed photograph.

I moved to Florida in 2014 with my husband to start our family, leaving behind my family in California. When we welcomed our first daughter into the world, my parents missed the birth (a three-hour drive and a six-hour flight will do that), but they were at the hospital the very next day, holding her for the first time and I snapped a photo. The first time she crawled, her Grandpa had been tempting her with a shiny toy and I caught them in action. When we took her to her first festival, my brother wore her in a baby carrier for four hours, so we documented that too. And when my best friend introduced her to ketchup for the first time, I shot the entire comical discovery.

I knew my daughter would probably never remember these significant moments but it was even more heart-wrenching to realize that she might struggle to remember the people in these memories. Our trips to the west coast to visit my family only happen once or twice a year, and it was unrealistic to expect a toddler to recall all of her relative’s names and who they are to her. Our visits back to the west coast felt like we were introducing everyone all over again and my heart quickened for a solution.

I began to print these candid photos of the family time spent together and place them around the house. The blank walls of our home slowly became a mosaic of sentimental pieces, and even some artwork came down in favor of these printed memories. My hope was that when she had trouble remembering the details, the pictures that line our home would remind her of her experiences; each wall of photos bringing a treasured memory to mind. I found myself motivated to capture as many genuinely emotional moments as possible, cataloging our time spent with those we love the most. I started to read every blog post and watch every YouTube tutorial on how to best capture these memories. My typical “say cheese” turned into “keep playing” as I snapped away.

My joy was made complete when I watched my daughter walk past her room, look up, and say, “That’s me and that’s Nana!” She could retell the memory just by glancing at the photo; name her great-grandma, whom she’s only seen twice in her life; and recall counting pumpkins with her Auntie Kay. She’s notorious for teaching our guests who each person is on the wall and prides herself in naming each one.

When our pictures were stored digitally, they were out of sight and out of mind. But if these photos can leave such a lasting impression on her, why wouldn’t I print them? I can envision her on a visit home from college walking through the house and reminiscing on the highlights of her life. I can see these framed photos being set up on display at her engagement dinner for her friends and family to aww over. I can even see her bringing these photos into her own home one day, sharing them with her kids and talking, laughing, and reflecting on those memories for years to come. I believe printing her memories now leaves her with a legacy later.

It’s much more meaningful to hold these physical prints than to view them as pixels on a screen. Recreating some of our cherished experiences into tangible mementos for my daughter is so rewarding. As she continues to grow over the years, I’ll continue to exercise the discipline of printing our photos. We don’t need the perfect pose or the “smile for the camera” type photos, we only need the moments that showcase the times that light up our hearts.