On about three separate occasions since the Advent of Google Photos, I have uploaded my entire extant photo library to that service. I’ve done this each time in the confidence that duplicate photos would not be imported.
How wrong I have been.
I stand before you today as a man with a Google Photos library that is an absolute wreck of duplicate (and sometimes triplicate and quadruplicate) pictures that are incorrectly timestamped. The hours I have spent working to rectify this–it’s embarrassing to admit.
I’m battling opposing negative possibilities. On the one hand, I could delete photos I take to be replications and be wrong, thereby wiping out the only copies that exist. I’ve protected against this by backing up the entire thing on an old iPod classic. But still, especially when the pictures feature people no longer living, my index finger trembles over the “delete” button. On the other hand, I could permit this photographic stew to simmer indefinitely, making a nostalgic sip of my photo timeline a bitter mouthful of memories not where they should be, and not where they should be, and NOT WHERE THEY SHOULD BE.
What is a photo for, anyway? For memory. And what is memory for? To re-live moments exactly as they happened, to prove to myself that, yes, I once had a full head of hair and that the 11 year-old who frequently rampages through my apartment could once be held in the palm of a single hand? No, memory’s best use is as a catalyst for present growth, a spur to keep becoming the person my favorite photos show me to be. That person is most often not in the picture, but has the attention focused on an object of admiration, awe, or devotion. Memory should expand those.
I think I am starting to prefer the risk of deletion to the risk of duplication. The photo is not the memory. The photo is not the person.