Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Really look at photographs

My great-grandmother was a professional photographer. I have very few of her original photos, most of her work seems to have vanished into a family that had little concern for history, whether family or otherwise. Her major life's work went into a book of over 750 pages of stories, biographies and photographs. After spending a great part of my life involved in genealogy, I still cannot imagine the amount of work it took to compile and identify all of the people and all of the photographs.

I have been taking photographs since I was about nine or ten years old. Probably, to the discouragement of my descendants, I have 10s of thousands of photos, both mine and those acquired from relatives. Yesterday, I stopped while I was scanning some of the older photos and began to look at what I was scanning. I mean really look at the images. On the computer, the tiny little cheap photos show some amazing detail; cars, clothes, houses, landscapes, towns, people both young and old, relatives and others who I will never probably identify.

I know all about period dating to tell when the photo was taken by the hair styles, clothes and backgrounds, but yesterday, I was looking at faces and stories. My father and his brother as young boys. My great-grandmother on a picnic outing, sitting next to the old car. The house where my father lived being built on an empty lot surrounded by desert. Gardens full of flowers, with my great-grandfather standing in his ill-fitting work clothes looking older than his years.

I looked into the soul of my family and realized, once again, why I continue to search and record and look and photograph. I cannot let these images die their own death. I cannot let the stories go untold. I cannot let the eyes that have long passed from this earth, be entirely forgotten. It is time to really look at the photographs. It is time to really look and see the lives and stories.

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