How Discovering a Dusty Box of Family Photos Changed the Course of my Career and Taught me the Value of Family History
I grew up in the cultural hodge-podge known as the mid 80s and early 90s. I feel caught in Gen-Y while the millennial side of me is saying it’s ok to drink the Kool-Aid (which I drank a lot of growing up). It was the golden age of Nickelodeon and MTV. I played outside…a lot. We took the classic summer family vacations to Disney World…several times. And my dad documented everything! We were the kids impatiently groaning, “Did you take it yet?,” while he would stumble through camera settings waiting on the right moment. My dad also invested in the infamous 90s VHS recorder that gave him the appearance of a news camera man. He even “helped” me win a photography contest in elementary school with his keen artistic vision that rivaled any other 4th grader that year.
While my dad was a huge influence on my current vocation, it wasn’t until I discovered a little tin box in his attic that my interest in really documenting family legacies was really sparked. And that’s how discovering a dusty box of family photos changed the course of my career and taught me the value of family history.
Seeing my dad’s photos is more than simply seeing a good picture. I feel like it’s like looking into a crystal ball, rediscovering the past. When I look at my dad’s photos, I get to know him better. I get to know this guy who had a whole other life before I even existed. Each photo is a window into my dad’s life, my childhood and our family history.
After spending some time with our family photos, I knew that I wanted to invest my energy fully into a career as a professional photographer. And the more photos I found from my parents and grandparents, the more I knew I wanted my kids to look back at our family’s visual archive and feel the same way I did. I wanted them to inherit the magic of analog photos, of well-dcoumeted memories. So even though I had avidly taken photos as a hobby for many years, my wife and I decided to start a pro photography business. My parents purchased my first “real” DSLR for my birthday and the rest was history. My wife, Emma, and I had even taken a film class in college. Yet, it wasn’t until the discovery of my dad’s childhood photos, that the course of my career changed. Finding my dad’s treasure trove of family photos impacted how I look at photography. It helped me understand the value of images.
My wife and I took this inspiration from our families and followed our passion for photography. Now, we document weddings for a living. I’d say it’s a pretty important day in a family’s history. But moments we document aren’t just for us to make a living, but it’s a way for other people to have a legacy and a story to remember and to give to their kids one day.
And now, my love of family history has led me to embark on another adventure! Along with fellow photographer Jordan Mahy, I created The Artifact Project. It’s a simple concept of digitizing images, recipes, letters, and other family heirlooms and putting them in a beautiful online gallery for easy access of sharing and downloading. Our vision is to help individuals and families get their memories and heirlooms online to open up access to even more resources like prints and photo albums. After all, family memories worth saving are worth sharing!
About the Authors: We’re Wesley & Emma Teague–two southern-born kiddos (Texas and Alabama respectively) who found each other during college and have been married for 5+ years. After a 1 week honeymoon, one appendectomy, and 2 weeks at Wesley’s parent’s house, we moved to Sevilla, Espana to live our dream for a year! It was pretty sweet. We now reside in Birmingham, AL, but are always on the move to meet new people and discover new places. Our work has been featured on industry blogs including Style Me Pretty, Snippet & Ink, Wedding Chicks, The Lovely Find, Offbeat Bride, Brooklyn Bride, Southern Weddings, The Knot, Weddings Unveiled, Hi-Fi Weddings, BRIDES, Honeysuckle Life, and Fernwehosophy. Plus, you can see our work in these great publications –Birmingham Magazine, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, Celebrate Magazine and Alabama Bridal.