I gave myself an assignment this holiday break, scanning old photos that my folks collected over the years. In scanning over 1,200 photographs within the period of a week, and not scanning ten times that number I’ve learned a few things.
Take and save photos: Obviously, photographs are a perfect way to record the past. It’s a joy to look at the faces of years past to see family resemblances, personalities, and individual accomplishments.
When people pass on, don’t be too quick to toss out boxes of photos. If it’s too painful to go through them now, put them in storage for a decade… Once they’re circular filed, it’s as if they were never taken.
Take staged and candid photos: Everyone attempts to looks their best when posing. Shoulder to shoulder with siblings or parents, it’s much easier for future generations to figure out who’s related to who.
Candids give a better indication of the personalities of each person, caught interacting with each other. However, it’s often a challenge to name people in them because often families and friends are mixed within them. I will say though, of all the pictures I have already shared with my extended family, the candid shots get the most comments.
Quality photos: Looking at well over a hundred years of family photographs I have seen trends in cameras, developing, printing, paper, and lenses. There are decades of washed out photos, where photos from years earlier held up better. As you snap photos in 2015 and beyond, consider the camera and lens you use to take pictures with. And while, it may look cool to save images with a retro filters, will those cheesy filters be as appreciated in fifty or more years when your kids’ kids are looking back on your life?
That’s right, looking back at your life… Very few know when we’ll pass, so, whatever pictures you leave behind may possibly be seen by nephews, grandchildren, and nieces’ great grandchildren… You’d be wise to consider that before snapping off stills from another sloppy, slutty, blurry, drunken night.
Label photos: It might be a giant time suck to label photos, however, there are albums upon albums of photographs where neither of my parents have any idea who are in the photos. Without names or dates, it’s impossible to know who the person is, and how anyone may or may not be related to them.
Also, prints with the location marked, but without the names of the subjects mean very little. And just as prints with locations marked but not individuals’ names mean very little, photographs with large backgrounds and small faces in them are valued far less too. Of many of the prints I scanned I found myself cropping out most of the backgrounds that were uninteresting. So get in there… The closer the subject is (and in focus), the greater the detail later.
Save occasional newsprint & letters: Along with the photos, I scanned a few notes, and newspaper articles. While I haven’t taken the time to really dive into most of them as of yet, the few I have really have given a fuller idea of the lives that my relatives had led.
Overall: I have to say that the greatest thing I learned from looking at all these photos (in detail) was even more perspective on life… We all are born, live and pass on. People socialize and smile, we cook, we celebrate, we dress up and let our hair down… All the while the world keeps turning. People are remembered for a time and most are forgotten decades later. It’s the way it is, photographs extend memories, but in a hundred years, your life will be boiled down to only a few saved “special” photographs, once again demonstrating how small issues in our individual lives really are small issues in the overall scheme of time. So smile, put your best foot forward, accomplish, and live a life that’s worth people remembering fondly.
– Quiche Out