on family, photography and time capsules

Over the weekend, Marcus, Alex and I went over to my parents' house.  My dad's younger brother, Uncle Larry, and his wife of 38 years, Auntie Beth, were in town visiting.

As it happens, right before we left our house to go over there, I was looking for a pair of shoes deep in my closet (related: you don't even want to see the state of my closet), and there, at the back, I found an ancient photo album.  I have no idea how I came to be in possession of this album, but there it was:  old, falling apart (the front cover was hanging on by a thread), and full of old, yellowed black and white photos and letters:  most of the images were of my dad and his friends from back in the early 60's when he was at university in Birmingham, England; but there were a few from the same time period of my mother and her friends, when she was at university in Bristol, England.  There were notations on the back: "My 'digs' in Birmingham" or "The first time I ever saw snow" or "My 21st birthday." 

It was like coming across my own personal time capsule.  And it was pretty incredible.

Needless to say, I packed it up to take to my parents' -- I knew it would make for great conversation, especially since Uncle Larry happens to be as avid a photographer as I am (unfortunately, he doesn't put his photographs online, or I would link you; but trust me, what that man does with a landscape and a polarizing filter on his lens is not to be believed).  I was right -- for a good 45 minutes, we pored over the photographs, with my mom and dad telling us the stories behind the photos. So great.

Afterwards, Uncle Larry and I started talking photography, and I mentioned to him that I rarely, if ever, actually print my photos.  "Oh, you need to," he said emphatically.  "In fact, I print all of my favourite photographs and put them in albums.  I don't even really organize them by theme, I just label the albums 'Photos 1,' 'Photos 2,' and so on.  I just make sure they're printed."

He's so right, of course.  I think most of us who sort of live in the online world have this false sense of security that as long as we archive our images properly on hard drives and back-up hard drives, we're golden -- forgetting of course, that the mediums change and become obsolete faster than we take notice (case in point:  when was the last time you retrieved a file off of a floppy disk?).  I need to do a better job of printing my images and putting them in albums -- not scrapbooks, you understand, because I really don't have much interest in starting that as a hobby (although, admittedly, the works of my friend Ali Edwards are certainly inspiring) -- but more just simple albums.  Just books filled with photographs, inserted with those adhesive photo corners, with perhaps the odd inscription or two on the back.

I left that old photo album at my parents' that day, but came away with a new resolve.  Because it would be really cool if one day, grown-up Alex comes over to Marcus and my house with her family, asking me for the stories behind the images in one of my old albums.


Images:  Photographed in my parents' kitchen on September 5, 2010, with my Nikon D300, 50mm 1.4 lens.


Song: Come as you are, as performed by Laura Love

Karen Walrond23 Comments