The Memory Recorder

So the end of high school is coming. The perks of being senior: yearbook, prom, senior package, barbeque, etc  –  all of those fancy stuffs are there . I was not getting any. Not rich enough to pay for them.

Many friends told me: “Hey, you are too cheap. This is senior year. How are you gonna remember all of us?”

It is not an easy feeling to always being called cheap. But, there will be money needed to be spent for college education (textbooks, insurance, transportation fee and I-don’t-even-understand-what-they-are fees), therefore it is wiser to save up money from now.


Last year, I lost my 500 GB HDD. Having been using it for two years, I guess the money spent did not matter much anymore. But, I was kind of losing all the photos taken with friends – best friends – throughout the middle school and two first years of my high school. It was a horrifying feeling. Like, I was losing all memories with them. Like, when I became old, I would have nothing to look at to remember our young and happy days.

And then, two months ago, I made a huge mistake again. I required Facebook to send me all my photos and videos; then I deleted them on my account before checking the email. Later in the day, opening it, to my astonishment, the file did not contain all of my photos. In fact, I only received a small number of them.


 I wrote a short essay about Snapchat three weeks ago and Robin kindly commented on it with some interesting questions:

“Does the lack of permanence imply a lack of value? If so, is there any reason to spend time creating something that will last only a few seconds? But if that’s true, what’s the value of a beautiful tune? Is it gone when it ends?”

I was struck by the questions and have been thinking about them for a while. Then, I pondered over all the pictures I had lost and the photos I could not take with my friends in high school (since I did not have money to join the senior activities). An idea seizes me.

The lack of permanence does not imply a lack of value. My photos are lost, but my memories are still with me. They are carved in my brain. I still remember “the beautiful tune” even after its being gone forever. I chuckle thinking about our crazy days in schools, can recall the precious moments and write about those as easily as pressing the “delete” button on Facebook. Memories are not made by a thousand times pressing the camera button; they are made by minds that live for those ticks of time so sincerely that they can hardly forget the snapshots of the moments. If we cannot recall the moments with people who we hold dear to, then maybe pictures would just be meaningless. Of course, photos do remind us of our memories with much more vividness and “Woa” moments, yet we should thereby regard them as our tools to  remember, not memories themselves. About the friends that I do not have a chance to join senior activities with. Well, if I have to wait to make memories with them by what the school organizes for seniors, then those are probably not good friendships.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to deny the value of photography. It is one of the most wonderful inventions by humans that make our lives easier and lovelier. I cannot even imagine a life without photography. Looking at myself when I was a kid, realizing how much my friends have changed over the years, or becoming mesmerized by photos that change the world…all of those benefits.

Nevertheless, if we look at how the world involving media is functioning, we realize a disturbing truth. We are so fond of holding phones in our hands to take pictures that we forget to have fun. We take photos to show off how we are living our lives, rather than really living them. We smile a thousand times in our photos, but do not have a single happy moment. I know that this is not the case for everyone, but I do witness it during the time in high school, when technological devices like smartphones start to become popular.

Until this point, I don’t know what else to say, but rather than telling you all that my loss of photos does not seem devastating to me anymore. And thank you for reading. Please leave me a comment, telling me your experience with photography. I would love to hear your opinions.

– Nhi/NYC


6 thoughts on “The Memory Recorder

  1. Hey there! I know exactly how you must have felt after finding out that all your pictures got deleted! I’ve experienced that so many times and I dread experiencing that feeling again so I started saving the same pictures, and albums multiple times in different places. To be honest, it’s gotten quite ridiculous and I totally agree with you when you said “We take photos to show off how we are living our lives, rather than really living them.” because that has become such a big trend with our generation and it’s sad to see everyone’s need to capture every moment of their day or life and post it online to show off to others. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty awesome to be able to see everyone else’s experiences through pictures but they shouldn’t be everyone’s main focus. 😛
    Anyways, about senior year being super expensive…OMG I feel ya! I spent a crazy amount of money on sooooo many things this year it’s ridiculous! And with university around the corner, there will be soooo many more expenses! Although I love shopping, I am not looking forward to going broke :$ LOL


  2. These are well considered thoughts on the significance of memories and the importance of photography as a means to retain those memories. I like very much what you have written here. One is tempted to ask: how often do we really go back and look at them again? Does the easy action of snapping a picture disconnect us from what we see before us? We see it, we point and shoot, and quickly we move on. I have been mulling this question over in the last few days as I look out the window at a scene that hundreds of tourists pass by each day. I watch them walk over the bridge that crosses the River Seine below. They stop, they look, the iPhone goes up, Click! And within a few seconds they move on. But occasionally, one comes with a tripod. She/he stands there, thinking, walking back and forth, looking at the light and shadows, trying to See what is really there. I imagine a writer is not much different, struggling with words, trying to compose what he/she feels.


  3. Hi Robin. It is good to see you again. Thank you for reading this essay and sharing with me your ideas. What you wrote there is similar to how I feel. It is nice to think that now we have a better access to taking pictures, yet it is scary to realize that thanks to this easy access, we may fail to appreciate the true beauty of nature, humans, moments and so on.

    Also, I really like how you often share your pictures, along with the stories behind, or how you took them. I have always wondered what stays behind the minds of photographers and always respect their good works. Thank you again.

    About writers…Wow! That is sure difficult – the job of being lonely, struggling to express what they are trying to get across to readers.


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