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Friday, 30 November 2007

Photographic Remains

By Susan Gulliford of Hillsborough NJ Journal

There is something sad about abandoned family pictures, those boxes and albums of photographs forever freezing moments in personal history. They have become clutter to be tossed out by descendents who have no clue who is in the pictures or why that moment was important.

Home organization shows advise homeowners to throw out family photos using the rationale that they “always have the memories in their minds.”

Do they understand that memories can fade? What about the next generation who don’t have these memories in their minds?

I personally came upon this dumping of family history when attending a local auction. I tried to return some photos that I found in a sewing bench I had just bought, but the auctioneer’s clerks advised me that the family wasn’t interested. The 40’s Army uniforms, the 50’s Christmas trees, the 60’s prom pictures – no one wanted them.

And now I have become the recipient of two boxes (at least) of my family’s photographic memories and have begun to pick out ones that I am sure other family members would like to have, writing on the back any information that I can remember. Some sit on a corner of my desk just waiting for me to stick them in an envelope and mail them.

For some reason I haven’t been able to send them out.

"A family's photograph album is generally about the extended family - and, often, is all that remains of it."
- Susan Sontag

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I am so touched by this.

My husband's mother took all the family photographs and threw them in a dumpster. One day there they were, out of their albums, in the trash, and we salvaged every one. But who are they all. We marked as many as we could and gave the rest to his brother.

Husband's mother was angry about some small slight forty years later. Out the pictures went. One young lady in England married a yank. No one in her family spoke to her again, and she had no children. Her pictures were thrown away when she died. In my family there were few pictures, and they all came down to me as an only child.

Hugs to you.

Funny, I love family photographs,too.

The very first thing I have always done when getting new pictures back was to assume that this picture I was holding in my hand was the very one that someone would find in an old chest 100 years later. SO, I put as much information as I could about the person in the photo on the back.

My Mother left a large shoebox full of pictures with absolutely no writing on them so I know how frustrating it is to find an interesting photo and have no knowledge about that person.

I am a very lucky Mom because my son and Daughter in law have taken all of our family pictures and beautifully framed them and have them on the wall in their family room for the whole family to look at, reminesce, and learn about their ancestors.

When my sister-in-law died I inherited the family pictures that she had.

One afternoon my husband and I invited two of the oldest members of the family to come to our home and have a "do you know who this is party." We wrote the names of the people they recognized on the back of the pictures.

In one of my recent posts I put up an old family photo and sent a copy of that post to some relatives who I thought would be interested.

What a response I got! That lead to stories that I had never heard before. What fun!!

I think family photos should be distributed as widely as possible so someone will have them in the end.

I am the keeper of the memory books in my family and I often wonder who will want them when I am gone.

Today, on my blog, I posted a photo of my one year old grand-daughter dancing with her grandfather. It also gave me the opportunity to write my wishes for her as she grows up. I think photos and blogs will be very valuable to the generations to follow.

It saddens me to find old photos that are not marked with info about the people or not dated. I have many photos that cannot be indentified, and yet, I cannot bring myself to throw them out. I am sure my kids will have no qualms about it - and that saddens me even more.

I was doing some Thrift Store shopping one day last year. I came across this fine old leather photo album. Upon opening it I discovered it was full of old photos. Memories of family and events which seemed to cover generations. I marveled but in disbelief that some family's photographic history was in a thrift store. Imagine all the questions that came to mind. It nearly sent me on a quest to find out who they were.

You've prompted me to take a closer look at the old photos I have lying about in envelopes, bags and drawers. I'm trying to search out the source and stories behind as many of them as I can, as well as scan and copy them to disk.

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