One Photographer Proves Why You Should Save Your Family Vacation Photos for Future Generations
My interest in “the travel snapshot” began when I was a child, traveling with my mother simply because we wanted to see new things and we could since it was just the two of us. I always made sure I had at least three disposable cameras with me where ever we would go.
As we drove and explored new places, I snapped photos out of the passenger window. The quickly- changing landscape rushing by captivated me most – and it still does! Because of my need to capture my own travels, I soon became interested in the way others captured theirs.
This led me to start collecting found photos of travelers and abandoned snapshots from family vacations. In the process of collecting these discarded treasures, I came across a stack of projector carousels filled with slides from three womens’ cross-country trip to Alaska. In this collection, I discovered over 700 slides capturing various landmarks and signage. From unique wildlife to beautiful landscapes, almost all of the photographs were taken out of the window of a 1963 Pontiac.
I stopped in my tracks.
Not only was I overjoyed that I stumbled on such a well-preserved collection, I was also struck by the similarities between these three women and myself. Each image was interesting, but they really resonated with me because of my memories of childhood travel snapshots.
The photographer took the time to organize each slide; she gave each slide a number and description, along with a master list for each box. (Note to readers: this is so important because it helps future generations identify important people and milestones!) Clearly, the photographer had a passion for capturing snapshots while traveling with her close friends. But she also felt the need to do something with these images, which was to organize and describe each slide, and possibly host a viewing party for friends and family.
While I was able to experience this series of snapshots from the 1960s by someone whom I’ve never met, I quickly wondered why I hadn’t looked through all of my family photos from vacations? I had seen a few from my mother’s childhood vacations, but not many, and very few of my grandparents’ travels from their youth.
So I hit the road.
I traveled to my grandparent’s house, taking photos along the way. When I began to look through my grandpa’s photos, I found something very interesting – my great-grandfather also took photos out of the windows while in transit. It’s something so simple that I’ve been doing for years, and yet here is my great-grandfather, who passed away a few years before I was born, doing the same exact thing.
My heart leapt.
It was a poignant moment, realizing that I shared something so personal with a relative whom I’d never met. As I continued poring over my grandparents’ photos, I found that so many of the images were visually-captivating, and resonated with me personally. I began to see similarities in my family snapshots from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, to the work I am creating now. That awareness made me grateful for grandparents and their desire to keep every photograph.
This discovery also sparked a new practice. I began to archive my family’s photos as well as digitally combine my work with theirs; a generational collaboration.
The resulting images add another layer to the process of preserving family history. The images are threads of personal connection and conversation across generations. Capturing the moment is almost second nature to all of us, especially when traveling. We create snapshots in record numbers, thanks to our iPhones and Androids.
Remember, though, it’s also important to curate and preserve these photos, even if they just seem like mundane snapshots at the time. The photos you are capturing now can continue the process of sharing your experiences and stories with loved ones – maybe even your great-granddaughter who isn’t born yet.
About the Author: Kayla Suzanne Holdgreve was born and raised in Lima, Ohio. She received her BFA in Photography with a minor in Art History from the Columbus College of Art and Design.
She currently resides in Columbus as a freelance photographer and archivist. She spends much of her time traveling and collecting found photographs.
She plans to attend graduate school in the near future to study photography and art history, with aspirations of become a photographic historian. You can follow her travels and adventures on Instagram.
Author photograph courtesy of Nolan Rogers.