I’ve been spending time sorting through dozens of photo albums over the past few days. It’s been a trip down memory lane – complete with laughter, a few embarrassing moments, rushes of happy thoughts, a few tears and momentary sadness.
My sweet Momma spent countless hours at a little table in her basement putting the incredible number of photos my Dad took through the years into carefully labeled photo albums. Dad took LOTS of pictures. A CrAzY number of pictures. Every time you scratched your nose or stuffed something in your mouth (or so it seemed to me), he was there snapping a photo. But, he captured a LOT of family memories too.
Sadly, even though Mom put these photos in albums, I can’t possibly keep them all. There are dozens of albums. And there are boxes and bins of photos she never got around to putting in photo albums. So, I’ve been spending snatches of time going through them and tossing photos that have no meaning to me. I’m trying to be ruthless. But it’s hard.
On my first sort through the albums and oodles of loose photos, I’m throwing out a LOT of the photographs:
- Pictures of scenery. Lovely, but they somehow lose meaning if YOU weren’t the one experiencing the beauty in the first place
- Fuzzy pictures
- Pictures of people stuffing food in their face – or other non-flattering photos
- The bad shots – like the vacation shot with unknown tourists walking through it
As I thumb through the album pages, I’m trying to set aside pictures for other members of the family. I’ve got an album going for my sister, a box filling up for each of my children, and a few piles for other special people. Last night I tucked photos into envelopes, added a little note of greeting, an address and postage, then mailed them to the people in the pictures. I hope it will bring a smile to their day.
I’m learning something about taking photographs as I sort.
- As much as I love digital photography, there’s something special about having an actual photograph in your hand.
- People matter. Focus on photographing people, not scenery.
- Labeling the people in the pictures matters. I have vowed that I will label the pictures I have printed immediately…maybe while I’m still in the car thumbing through them after picking them up from photo processing. I know that once I throw them on the counter-top in my kitchen, the likelihood of any of the pictures in the envelope getting labeled diminishes exponentially with each day that passes.
- Captioning the picture is SO nice. What was happening here? When and where was this?
- Those photo books you create on-line are wonderful. They are relatively inexpensive, and the process helps you choose your favorites – just the highlights of that vacation – and then encourages you to write captions. Brilliant. My mom loves these little books.
- The stuff in the background is fun. Don’t crop out the old couch or the crazy looking artwork. Someday it’ll bring back stories and prompt long lost memories.
I’m finding treasures as I go through the photographs and albums. I love finding photos from pre-1950. When I show them to my sweet Momma she can often cull from her long-term memory and tell me something about the person in the photo, the occasion, or the place it was taken. I’m trying to write these details down now and plan to put them in a lap-size album – the kind where you can write on the side margin – and give it to Momma so she can page through and re-tell her stories to her heart’s delight.
But, today, it was my heart that was delighted.
Today I found a photo of my Dad. He’s been enjoying heaven since 2008, but today he smiled at me as I turned a page. I could almost hear his laugh. It looked to me like Dad was experimenting with a new camera. He took a “selfie” in 1995 – a full 18 years before the word “selfie” was announced as being the “word of the year” by the Oxford English Dictionary.
Thanks, Dad. I needed your smile today.