11 Different Emotional Reactions To Old Photographs

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7:03 pm 25 Aug, 2015

There’s something about opening a big box or album of old photos and looking at them in your leisure time. Old photos can bring in a rush of emotions…not all of which we’re prepared for when we sit down to have a look.

1. Nostalgia

Looking at old photographs of ours can make us think of how good the past was; how today can never compare to those happy days. We see the past with rose-tinted glasses, ignoring all that was not great about it.


Children swim in Ladakh, India gregorykauffmann

2. Heartache

Beyond just being nostalgic about the past, we can experience acute sadness when we look at old photos. This is especially true if we feel that our lives have taken a downward turn. Looking at your past self can depress you.

old calcutta

Sidewalk parlor in old Calcutta pkp

3. Embarrassment

This one is more related to the superficialities of the photos – the kind of hairstyles we had, the kind of clothes we wore and maybe even the kind of place we were at. The new you doesn’t like to see the old you.


Air India ad campaign oldindianphotos

4. Happiness

Of course, when we look at old photos, we remember the people in them; some might have gone from our lives forever, but old photographs remind us of the bond that we had with them and how happy they made us.


Group of Women with Children life

5. Resentment

Sometimes, of course, the people in the photos weren’t good for us, even though we did not know that at the time. If you come across such people in old photographs, you can be surprised about how fresh the wounds seem.


A British man gets a pedicure from an Indian servant 121clicks

6. Acknowledgment

Looking at old photos can make us acknowledge the part people played in our lives. When we look at old class photos and see that teacher who punished us, in hindsight we know that we deserved it and she was just doing her job.


Unknown Indian tribe ibtimes

7. Realization

Of course, old photos make us realize how far we’ve come; it’s like a visual representation of our growth. There are also other kinds of realizations – things you didn’t know when the photo was taken but are aware of now.

8. Desire

Old photos have a way of rekindling old desires and new ones. You may become re-obsessed with your teenage crush or you may want to have a candy that you haven’t seen in years. Sometimes, you end up yearning for a past..even if it wasn’t your past.

9. Envy

This is rather rare but it still does occur, sometimes we can look at old photos and think how much easier or better life was for the people in them. Sometimes, we view the past with a ‘romantic’ eye and we wish we could have been there.

10. Shock

Look at some of the old photos of Indian women playing games in saris, it’s kind of humbling. I’m sure if most of us tried to run around playing tennis in saris, we’d either die of the heat or trip and hit our heads on something.


Sarla Thakral, First Woman Pilot of India viralstories

11. Huh?

Some photos were probably best understood in their time and age; looking at them now only confuses us. Were the people having fun? Were they kidding around? Was it some serious commentary on life back then? Who knows? We just scratch our heads.



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