But that’s exactly what I do when I dispose of old photos. I simply rip them up and put them in the bin. Not in the recycling bin, though, because the toxic chemicals used in the printing process mean that old photos are classified as hazardous waste. They have to go in the regular trash that goes to landfill or incineration.
Some people are surprised to hear I do this because they have read somewhere that we are energetically connected to images of ourselves, so photos must be ritually burned or at least disposed of more respectfully. From my experience of hand sensing photos, I certainly agree that there is an energy connection between a person and their image, but unless you are a master of the black arts, it does not do any harm to a person to throw their photo away. When you think about it, millions of photos of people in newspapers end up in recycling waste every day and there are no dire consequences of this. If there were, all celebrities would be in big, big trouble.
For people who are still not convinced, or find themselves unable to rip up images of themselves or people they know, a kinder method is to immerse the photos in a basin of water until the images float off and dissolve, which usually takes 3-5 days. But then you are faced with the problem of what to do with the toxic water you are left with. To dispose of it responsibly you certainly can’t pour it down the toilet or the sink, or empty it in your back garden. Photo paper contains a cocktail of chemicals, including silver and mercury. If you choose this method you would need to contact your local hazardous waste disposal centre first and ask them what to do.
I have to say, though, that I do draw the line when it comes to putting photos of people through the shredder. I can happily do this with photos of places or things, but seeing those mechanical metal teeth tearing through the faces of people I know feels unnecessarily aggressive. There are gentler ways to do it.
For those who’ve grown up in the digital age, deleting a photo is only a click of a button away. But the sheer quantity of photos most people now have has brought with it a whole new set of problems. Taking a photo is easy and cheap, but the time it takes to store it in a way that allows you to find it again, and the energy it takes to decide which to keep and which to delete, can take up untold hours of a person’s life. As one woman observed when faced with this task, ‘My husband says that when you say “yes” to something you are always saying “no” to something else. So if I am spending all my time organizing memories, what am I am saying “no” to?’
The art of intercepting clutter before it even starts
Copyright © Karen Kingston, 2014