I wonder how many photographs you have seen today?
If you have been on Facebook or Instagram, there is a good chance that you’ve swiped through one or two. You might even have taken some yourself. Pictures are ubiquitous these days. From shots of food to selfies and images of beautiful scenery, photos surround us.
Generally, not being able to see photographs hasn’t felt like a huge loss to me. True, when there has been, say, a family wedding, and everyone is commenting on the pics, I feel a momentary pang of regret, but I don’t worry about it on a daily basis.
A recent family event, however, has made me think again about what I might be missing.
My niece, who lives in Australia, had a baby in September. Naturally, pictures started appearing on Facebook. I “liked” them as a matter of course. He is my great-nephew, so obviously he must be beautiful!
The speech software on my phone helpfully told me that the pictures contained images of a baby, but that didn’t exactly describe him to me.
I started to feel frustrated that I couldn’t see the photos. Fortunately, another technological revolution came to my aid.
I had been accustomed to talking to my niece from time to time via Skype. This turned out to be quite difficult for me to manage. The software was forever updating and changing the keystrokes necessary to making calls and in the end I gave up on it in disgust.
My phone, though, gives me access to Messenger, which includes full video and audio options, and this turned out to be much easier to use.
So one morning, UK time, I called my niece using Messenger. It was evening in Australia and she was just getting the baby ready for bed. He wasn’t happy about it so some wailing ensued.
At last I could hear what he sounded like. I didn’t mind that he wasn’t chuckling manically or gurgling happily, the important thing was that I could hear that he existed. I was surprised at how much this meant to me.
I should add that I have recently been able to go one better than this. The Australian branch of the family came over to England last week and I got to hold my great-nephew and play with him. Nothing beats holding a baby while he wriggles around and steals your specs!
I have no idea if the image of him that I carry in my head is even remotely accurate, but now that I’ve actually held him, the picture is certainly more vivid than it ever was before.