How Family Photos Can Help you Build a Lasting Legacy

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Me as a child in the mid 1960s.

Me as a child in the mid 1960s.

Do you have a legacy? Take a moment to think it through. Is there a chance the answer is ‘NO?’ Have you considered how family photos can help you build a lasting legacy? I have. In fact, it’s something I think about a lot. There’s a generation growing up that has been photographed more than any other generation in history. Although technology has advanced, the reason we take photographs has not changed. It’s actually quite simple. We take photographs to create a memory of something that is special to us.

Yet in decades or centuries to come, what will remain? Even Google’s Vice President, Vint Cerf, has expressed growing concern over what he calls a “digital dark age.” Cerf warns that we face a “forgotten generation, or even a forgotten century” through what he calls “bit rot,” where old computer files become unreadable, useless junk.

So how can you avoid losing priceless memories and use your family photos to build a lasting legacy?

This is your personal renaissance, the recognition of your own legacy. This is your opportunity to learn where you fit within the heritage jigsaw that is society. Rather than being led into a digital dark age, through the influence of commercialism and instant gratification, we each have a chance to preserve our memories in tangible formats. If we don’t prioritize our family photos, those moments may become a collection of jumbled electronic signals that cannot be re-assembled; a lifetime in images that is tragically unreadable.

Take a moment to reflect on one of your favorite family photographs, one that truly captures the moment when it was taken. Maybe it’s an image of your childhood Christmas with grandparents? Or perhaps it’s snapshots from a family trip, when the most important thing in life was going on holiday at a favorite location? Now imagine how it would feel to describe that moment to your children or your grandchildren. You could just tell them about your memories. Or you could show them.

You owe it to yourself (and to you children and grandchildren) to get your photographs printed. Even if your photographic prints find their way into a ubiquitous shoebox or an attic corner, at least they’re tangible. They exist in real time. They may even be undiscovered for decades. Yet they’re quietly waiting to be found. Such a treasure hunt will unlock wonderful emotions for the lucky family members who uncover your photographic gems. Not necessarily the digital ones – just the simple printed images of your family’s journey through life.

We live in an age of consumer-driven materialism where instant gratification is sold to us for high profits. As the corporate giants grow, creating their own legacies, it is us who provide their funding – but at what cost to our own life stories? How do we as consumers create our own legacies? This is a question I ask myself often. Inevitably, companies will disappear and the technology they provided will no longer be a repository of your priceless memories. We need to take a longterm view of our legacies, especially when it comes to our preserving our family photographs.

Personally, I’ve been fortunate to grow up in an era when photographic film was the only choice. As a result I have countless photos of my family. Sure, some of them are in boxes. Yet they are there when I need them. They are ready to be rediscovered by future generations. Yes, I have embraced digital photography and have shot thousands of images of my children digitally. But I have hundreds of those digital files printed at a professional laboratory.


My true passion, the home of my soul, is within my photographic darkroom. I have now begun the task of slowly working through hundreds of black and white photographic negatives I have of my children and family. These will be printed on Ilford MG IV FB ‘Classic’ paper before washing and toning to an archival standard. I am simply entitling this personal project the “Archive Box project.” It’s the least I can do for my memories. It’s an important step in building my legacy.

Things would be different if you hadn’t been here. The world would look different without you in it – especially for your family.  So you rightly deserve a place in personal history books; start one yourself, get your digital files printed. It is a lot more affordable than you realize and provides exceptional value. After all, your legacy is truly priceless.

canarywharfselfBy Stephen Fell

Steve is a part-time freelance photographer who uses primarily film in manual cameras. He uses some digital equipment, but recognizes that modern digital processes have contributed to removing the craft of exposing, developing and printing your own photographs.

The art of hand-printing is dying and consequently, the intuitive creativity of pre-visualization is also being lost. Steve believes that we should secure a record for future generations by printing our photos.

Written on his darkroom wall are these words, “Who needs patience anymore when all our pleasure’s virtual?”(Excerpt from A Billion Balconies Facing the Sun’ by the Manic Street Preachers.)

In a world that prioritizes convenience, a tangible approach to analogue is paramount to keeping our legacies alive. This personal belief is further supported in the use of a fountain pen whenever possible and shaving with a double-edge razor, using traditional brush and shaving cream.

Steve is currently studying for a history degree.

You can also find his musings and images on Twitter and Tumblr.


Sandra Regier says:

July 24, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Thanks so much for a great read! I don’t think we can tell people often enough to get their photos printed!!!


rachellacour says:

August 27, 2015 at 4:26 pm

Yes! Yes! Yes! I am so happy to hear that you encourage folks to get their images printed. There is something so magical about the power of print. 😀


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