How You Can Easily Capture a Loved One’s Life Story, Even if You’re Not a Natural-Born Storyteller
The comedian Louis CK has wryly but wisely observed, “Out of all the people that ever were, almost all of them are dead.” And of the roughly 108 billion people who have ever lived, almost all of them are forgotten. We don’t even know their many of their names, let alone what they looked like, did for a living or what made them laugh or cry.
That has been the reality of human history so far – and it’s about to change. Why? Technological improvements in digital storage and processing now enable us to share our personal history and family legacy with future generations. Whether it be through visual keepsakes like old family photos and videos, or through the written word, we will now be able to share on a massive scale.
But how will we do that? That’s the riddle we’re trying to solve at LifePosts, a new platform for collaborative storytelling focused on memorials and major life milestones. We started by asking this simple question:
Even if you’re not a natural born storyteller, how can you easily capture a loved one’s life story?
When we faced that key question, we realized we needed to start developing some special tools. That’s when we learned some fascinating things about how people tell family stories. For example, we learned that a question formed out of words can be answered with a photo made of pixels. One of the new tools we developed is based on this principle. We call the tool LifeQs and it serves up intriguing or provocative question prompts. Some of the most powerful examples involve creative uses of photos intermixed with stories. Instead of just describing your grandfather’s favorite place to relax, show the place. Instead of saying “granddad had an infectious grin,” we can show his grin. The future of obituaries may well be an interactive montage of photos, videos and text.
Plus, photos become funnier over time. Bad outfits go from being mortifying to hilarious. (Just think of photos of your parents at a party in the 1950s, 60s or 70s!) Seeing these old photos actually makes you realize that you probably worried way too much about little things. Realizing this helped us develop a unique tool we call the “LifeTimeline.”
Sometimes photos actually pose questions instead of answering them. A photo doesn’t need to be the definitive story. Instead, a photo can be a prompt for several people to discuss what the story meant. Think of it as collaborative caption-writing. This invariably shows us that a moment of life is open to multiple interpretations. And that’s part of the fun of memorializing loved ones!
Sometimes the face isn’t what matters most. Usually I crop photos fairly close to get right in on the faces. But some photos that are not necessarily perfect artistically contain so much useful information in the background. This photo on the left is from a photo essay I did of my dog on LifePosts. It obviously doesn’t even show his face, yet it gives a much better sense of his daily life.
Our mission at LifePosts is to ensure that every person’s life story can be beautifully told, vividly celebrated, and preserved. One of the first steps is saving family photos. The next step is using family photos to tell the story – or the stories – for yourself and future generations. With the help of technology, you can easily capture a loved one’s life story, even if you’re not a natural-born storyteller.
About the Author: Steve Waldman, Founder & CEO of LifePosts, is a journalist and entrepreneur who in 1999 founded Beliefnet.com, which became the largest multifaith spirituality website. The successful site pioneered many “Web 1.0” approaches to creating high quality content, including tapping into the incredible stories of its readers. More recently, Waldman has become an expert on the transformation of the American news business, authoring a landmark study for the Federal Communications Commission about “the changing media landscape in a broadband age.” When he’s not busy working, he is likely obsessively making photo books to commemorate every vacation and milestone. His wife, Amy Cunningham, is a funeral director and writer.