How to Deal with the Family Photo
LESS IS MORE
families make false moves
none at all) with their photos.
Try reviewing the entire collection
throwing out at least half the
images. Keep a felt-tipped pen handy. You can
the knock-out shots for later attention as you pass by, but
first priority is getting rid of the repetition and junk.
is more. The technical triumph of being able to dump every shot
on a camera's memory card into a Web-based photo service is a cultural
disaster. We are not burying the next generation in only the
national debt. Slim down.
THE DUMPSTER WAITS FOR THE NAMELESS
you're dead (Oh. Sorry. You're one of those planning to live
forever?), the photos with nothing written on the back go into the
Dumpster, and those that help others identify the people photographed
are saved. But, alas! Names are too obvious to the living to even
down, and so it comes to pass that much of our lives are doomed to die when we do -- because the names are missing.
Photos have the
power to pull up memories, even against the weight of dementia, so
there you have your top job: share the photos -- big, restored, clear -- with older family members and
get their stories and the names.
in so many things,
tasks become impossible
for aging parents to perform, and children are often too
reluctant to take over for parents in this task, as in so many
others. So start talking about your parents photos while you
still have them, or at least their crowd, to talk to.
The ignominious Dumpster is always the home of the nameless print.
SHOWING THEY CAN STILL DO THINGS BY DIGITIZING
Without the energy
to do any better, parents will think the best thing to do is
everything and give it to the kids." The tragedy is complete
they actually do this, and the originals are discarded.
This is a tragedy because the same pile of hundreds of images
that was such a barrier to the parents is even more of a barrier to the
children, who now have even almost no tangible, physical basis for figuring
out how old
an image is or who's in it. If a photo is good but the scan
poor and needs to be re-done, it can be impossible to find the original
corresponding to image "1304.jpg" in folder "Batch5" even if
originals were kept.
Scanning is useful as a tool for finding images that are important because they are historic, or because they are beautiful and moving. After they are found, restore and share them.
goal with family photos, it seems to me, is creating beauty that is
effortlessly accessible to anyone at a glance, a beautiful
object that evokes the
telling and retelling of stories. I have developed the tools
technology I use because I think the goal of photography is a great
print, and we make prints to share our humanity with others.
should help parents since photos are all about sharing, and it will
enrich more than the photos to get the names and hear the stories of
This is grinding, tough work. If you are doing it right, the technology will be the
least of it.
self-serving opinion, as
you run across one knock-out shot in a hundred, I think you
send it to a craftsman right away and make that print, reward
yourselves with a
"stunner" as you slog onwards. The job will seem worth the
struggle if it turns into a treasure hunt.
Send copies of
these treasures to other family members as you find them. No
ever object to such a gift, and you need to find out who cares and
wants to help.
Scanning by itself solves nothing and creates problems. What,
then, can we expect from the digital revolution?
New technology is
interesting not because
a CD makes pictures any easier for someone to look at than slides in a
slide box. The new technology is powerful because a digitized
image on a Website can be accessed anywhere in the world at
The digital revolution brings access. This includes access
for you yourself -- fly to Australia, visit anyone with a networked
computer, and show them your slides on it.
see what's out there, do a search for "online photo album review", or for "best family website hosting". Whether
you go for a
simple album or a Website with more text and control of the
presentation, the images must be digitized. I can help you
digitize and restore images. But first they must
be found! After that, paper prints or Web display are easy.
Rev 4/06 1/2010