At a party while my friends are looking away, I pull out a Rite Aid brand disposable camera, wind it and press the gray button at the top. They look over at the bright flash in confusion while I laugh. Instantly I am taken back 10 years, looking into a crowd where I heard the whirr of a camera being wound and a white flash blinded me as I stood smiling, holding a certificate of graduation. That was my mom, always making herself known in my elementary school audiences with her disposable cameras, which made me want to hide in fright because of how noticeable they were. While other parents were switching to digital, my mom stuck with the disposable, pointing out that I was her daughter at every big event, with the bright flash and the loud wind. I never thought that as an adult, I would be the one visiting friends and showing up at work with a disposable camera in hand.
I love pictures, but I don’t know a lot about film or aesthetics. Part of this is because I’m too lazy to learn, and too cheap to buy a real film camera (although developing disposable cameras is not very economically friendly). I could just truly hone my skills with a digital camera or my camera phone; however, something that I’ve learned to appreciate as I’ve gotten older, perhaps something that my mom has known for a long time, is that there is a lot of fun in snapping one picture and having that be it. On a disposable camera, there’s no taking multiple pictures, standing around to get the perfect shot unless you want to waste your film. Your friends can’t ask you to see the preview and make you retake it if they think they look bad. You take one picture and you’re done. If it looks good in the end then that’s great and if it looks bad then at least you have the fuzzy memory to prove you were there.
After getting a bunch of pictures back from Rite Aid, Costco or Walgreens (wherever will develop them), I get the best sense of excitement. I get to look through all of the moments of a birthday party, a retreat or a big event like Picnic Day and remember each one exactly as it was when I took the picture. Even the pictures that are blurry or dark evoke a sense of emotion – I remember seeing that the flash didn’t go off after I took the photo, that the room was especially dark, or that my friend took it while she was running toward me. These are raw moments that I can’t easily edit or change – and that I don’t want to edit. Coming to this revelation in the age of iPhones and digital cameras has been exciting for me, and it makes me look back with a new appreciation for all those years when my mom made herself known in a crowd with the flash and the wind of her disposable camera.
Melissa Dittrich is a third-year English and Sociology major, The Aggie’s Opinion Editor and an all around pretty okay person! For questions about where to get your disposable pics developed, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.