Why Every Family Should Take Time to Talk About Their Old Analog Photographs
Remember you are a gatekeeper to unique family stories. When you ask questions and kickstart a conversation, you reveal why every family should take time to talk about their old analog photos.
While we were together for Easter Sunday this year, I asked my grandmother to pull out some photographs of my mother as child. The photograph in the center of the table is of her, taken on her birthday in January of 1972, though the time stamp reads December of that year. When I brought the mistake to her attention, my grandmother laughed and made a comment about how it’s no wonder she has film that still needs to be developed. Most of the photographs were school portraits, one for it seemed like every year.
As we sat down to sort through the lot, I saw my mother grow up before my very eyes and found myself feeling intensely grateful for such a solid presence of her past.
I felt like I had all the years represented in those photographs in my hands, memories that I could touch and hold and keep; all the warm summer days she spent running barefoot with her sisters at their childhood home, the time she wrecked her little red wagon and skinned her knee on the hard gravel.
Memories are little spectral figures, veiled by embellishment and the passing of time. And, like all ghosts, they require substantial remains to tie them to this world.
The sharp contrast of past and present is especially evident during my work day. My office is a land of antique bric-a-brac and Apple products; my digital camera lies on the table next to photographs taken twenty, thirty, sometimes one hundred years ago. Those old photographs appear frequently as props in my work. Little snippets of lives arranged in a pleasing manner.
Often, in the habit of constantly arranging and rearranging the photographs, I find myself guilty of treating them as mere objects. But they aren’t just props and I wish I could know more about each and every person pictured.
I have to remind myself that each one is a piece of someone’s history and is worth a moment’s thought and a little nostalgia, even if for a past that isn’t my own.
If someday my mother’s childhood photographs are to be found in the collection of a stranger, I hope they will take the time to wonder about her, about us. Maybe they will give her a new name? Something from literature, like Anne or Lizzie. Maybe they will imagine her with a different personality, short-tempered or materialistic? She ran away from the sleepy small town she came from as soon as she was able, and eventually grew to be a hardworking lawyer, with no children and little time for diversions.
Or maybe they’ll get it just right?
They’ll call her Pam, a quiet girl with artistic ambitions, who grew to be a mother of two, with a delicate way of loving, and all the time in the world to devote to us.
About the Author: Amanda Nolan Booker is a freelance photographer, stylist, writer, and curator based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Vintage enthusiast and owner of the shop, Kindling Vintage, she is a firm believer that the old should be cherished and have a place alongside the new and seeks to convey a sense of time passed in her work. In her spare time she can be found scouring the South’s many flea markets, estate sales, yard sales etc. for good vintage and antiques, some to sell, more than some to keep.