Thursday, December 22, 2011

How Picturing Christmas Becomes Picturing the Passing of Time

Exchanging Christmas cards each year with rarely seen friends and extended family always brings the annual revelations of photographs. Infants suddenly join the crowd as parents and siblings grow older around them. Kids I haven’t seen in years or perhaps never stubbornly insist on changing despite the picture of them I have fixed in my mind. Even hearing that one friend’s daughter had been accepted into her college of choice couldn’t transform her into anything but the precocious 5 year old still carrying on a conversation in the back of my imagination. Now my two sons make that annual mental pilgrimage in pictures for our friends and far-flung family. For me, the picturing of Christmas has been and will always be a way of picturing the passing of time—a fascinating sign post that illustrates the power of pictures. (Feel free to insert Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, or whatever holiday you cherish here and for all the following.) Perhaps no better example of that yuletide time machine exists than the Christmas photographs of Richard and Anna Wagner, a German couple who posed for Christmas card photos for four decades. Watching them rise and fall with the fortunes of their country in the first half of the twentieth century reminds us of how Christmas allows us to freeze frame life. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "How Picturing Christmas Becomes Picturing the Passing of Time."

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