How Family Photos Can Help You Reconnect with Loved Ones and Restore Relationships
I am the adult child of divorced parents, and the fact that I come from a broken family is a pretty good metaphor for our family photo archives. My dad had some, my mom had some, I had some, and my sisters had some. They were in albums, boxes, envelopes, and there were even handfuls of loose negatives in water-damaged boxes, covered in dust and mold. As I embarked on a journey to recover them, I learned firsthand how family photos can help you reconnect with loved ones and restore relationships.
In my “digital” life, I’ve always been very organized with things like my files, digital photos, iTunes library, and more. But the fact that my family’s analog photo memories were scattered across multiple cities, formats, and conditions was haunting me more and more. A few years ago, I approached my dad about the idea of scanning, organizing, and preserving our family photos and though I’m not quite sure he understood everything I had in mind, he was a good sport. He willingly parted with several of our family photo albums and I immediately started pulling prints from albums, organizing into envelopes, and shipping off thousands of prints and negatives to Scan Café.
After a few months, I got the first batch of scans back, organized the heck out of them (filenames, folders, keywords, location data, GPS, timestamps, etc.) using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, and started sharing scans with family via email and Flickr. As they enjoyed images and memories they hadn’t seen in 10-20 years, my family members started to get excited about my project and loosened their grip on the albums and shoeboxes they had!
My mom shared several worn boxes and some very old albums with me, contingent on the promise that she’d get them all back when I was done. I carefully sorted through boxes of envelopes, purged hundreds of double prints, and delicately separated stacks of loose negative strips. In the bottom of one box, I discovered a single cut negative in a small white envelope. I didn’t know the date, context, or people in the photo, but I added it to my growing collection and shipped off another batch of images to Scan Café.
When this batch returned, I posted some of the unfamiliar images on Flickr and asked extended family members to comment on the “mystery” images. One of the scans was from that loose negative at the bottom of the box. Within hours I received messages from extended family members who were shocked by my discovery and gushing with details.
The first thing they pointed out was that the negative had been scanned on the wrong side, which was determined by the backward lettering on the milk delivery cooler in the bottom left corner of the image. Next, I learned who everybody was – my mom and aunt (both in blue), a friend (the tall guy on the right), my mother’s cousins (on the left), and my maternal grandmother (who I never met) in the back. We also deduced that this family photo was taken during the weekend of my grandmother’s high school reunion in June of 1967.
And the most interesting part?
This was probably the last photograph ever taken of my grandmother, who was killed along with my grandfather twelve days later in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. That one negative revealed so much and brought back so many memories for my extended family. The amazing part is that nobody remembers ever seeing a print from that negative, where it came from, or where the rest of the roll of film is.
I can’t say that discovering this single negative put all the pieces of our family back together, but that one old family photo did reconnect my loved ones in a meaningful way that hadn’t happened for years.
What treasures are hiding in your attic or basement, waiting to be discovered? Don’t wait to uncover gems from your family history because you may find that your family photos can help you reconnect with loved ones and restore relationships.
About the author: Adam Pratt has worked at Adobe for over fifteen years and currently works on the Creative Cloud team, where he enjoys an inside track on the latest creative trends and technology developments. He’s as comfortable with his camera as he is with his computer and his family photo archive dates back to 1907. He loves creating beautiful albums and prints from these preserved photos and sharing them with others.