|Lifetimes at your fingertips|
Is there anything more powerful than a photo? Songs and smells can take me back to a particular moment, even seeing an old movie will stir up times I'd forgotten. Returning to a place from my past evokes memories of good and bad times, good and bad people. But those kinds of memories I have to "see" in my head, having to guess at the color of the sky and the size of the bicycle. With a photo it's all right there. Still right there. Powerful stuff those pieces of vellum.
When asked what someone would take if their house caught fire, the number one answer is still "my pictures" or "the photo album". It's interesting to me that given this common response, almost no one keeps photos in safe deposit boxes. Apparently we want them safe and close by. Photos are very important to us.
Like many traits, keeping photo albums skipped a generation in my mother's family. I have my grandmother's albums, black paper with little glued corners holding each black-and-white photo, description written in white ink. One album is the "baby book" for my mother and her older brother Charles. My mother kept no albums, so the photos of her teen and adult years, along with my baby and youth years, are loose in boxes. I, like Grandmother, kept albums and scrapbooks from my teens through my youngest son's teens.
|Grandmother's "whole blooming family"|
|Mother on her first day of school|
Dad kept an album of his Navy and post-discharge years - more black paper with white writing, but took (or kept) almost no photos in the years following. Most of the ones I have of him are those I took myself.
|Navy buddies, WWII|
|Dad always loved working on engines|
My last purging project - the one I've put off until the last - is all the photos and albums. Both Bill (yes, of course he has them too!) and I did a first sorting last year, tossing duplicates and unidentified subjects, of the loose photos. When I first moved in with him a few years ago I made an album of all his boys' photos, so that made a good dent in his boxes and folders.
|Just part of the "project"|
Still, I hadn't gone through my albums with "a critical eye", and I knew it needed to be done. Because what I didn't do, in any of the albums, was label the photos. Not even with dates :-(. I also didn't use much discretion in the choice of photos to keep. If it came out of my camera, it went in the album. This made for very many pages of sometimes very similar (if not identical) photos of the same subject. It also meant that even if you can't actually see what I was photographing because it was so far away, it still made it in the album.
It was also my habit to order duplicate prints of every roll so I could send my parents photos of their grand kids. Naturally I didn't send them every one, meaning I had lots of duplicates left over. Rather than tossing them, I put them in the ever-growing "box of photos". Why? No clue.
My first plan was to have every photo scanned to disc and get rid of all the boxes and albums completely. Now that I'm actually doing it, I've changed my mind.
Although there is some fading and flaking in the very old albums, part of their amazing charm is the black paper and white ink. Yes, I could take photos of the album pages and save those to disc (which may be necessary eventually), but I'm not yet prepared to give up the "feel" of the real thing. I'm taking steps to preserve each page, as well as the albums themselves, and will store them in a climate-controlled place for now.
After I go through and purge the more current albums, I'll condense them to fewer books and label each photo - and keep them in storage (where the boys can easily access them if they want).
The remaining loose photos will be scanned to disc where I can sort and label them as an on-going project either this Spring or after we get on the road.
|Plenty to put on disc|
|One of four identical pages|