What is it about blurry photos that draws us in? Why do we pause when we come across blurred photographs? We pull them closer to our eyes. We scan them…searching for detail where there is none. We’ve all taken that accidental blurred photo. Sometimes it creates beautiful motion blur and makes us feel the action. Sometimes we miss focus just a touch…we catch that wispy tendril blowing in the wind instead of the eye, catching an unintentional detail just perfectly. But what about intentionally blurring our photos? Taking the incredible glowing mother to be and focusing on the wildflowers swaying in the breeze just in front of her. Why does this photograph make you feel something?
The Answer? NOSTALGIA.
It’s the feeling you get when you go find the dusty box of film photographs in Grandma’s attic and look through them. They’re might be black and white or sepia, and maybe no one is smiling but instead wearing fancy clothes and looking as serious as possible. Or maybe they’re warm and vintagey – mustard yellows and olive greens and rich browns., with lots of sunglasses, long hair and mustaches. These photos are often grainy and gritty. There are strange markings and colors sometimes polluting the image. This is what creates nostalgia. A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past. Particularly when they’re associated with happy memories.
There have been entire studies done on the effects of nostalgia. A 2012 study in the journal Memory, Routledge et al found nostalgizing helps people relate their past experiences to their present lives in order to make greater meaning of it. The result is a boost in mood and reduced stress. It creates social connectedness and helps people feel valued and loved, especially in dark and lonely times.
Nostaglia to me, when I present it to each family I encounter, means bringing to light moments passed. It feels warm and peaceful. It feels contentment and happiness. It takes a photograph from a stand-still resolute moment in time to a feeling and a flood of memories. One day the people in the photographs will be gone, but somewhere in Grandma’s attic a descendant will find an old box of dusty photographs and find themselves lost in a rabbit hole of warm, lost memories.