My wife and I have a closet stacked from floor to ceiling with boxes of old photographs. Okay, so they’re not all photographs . . . there are piles of albums and boxes of slides, as well. Some albums have never been opened and some have only a few pages of photos and then blank pages. There are some albums that contain photos of our parents as children, so roughly the closet contains a hundred plus years of memories and history.
I’m guessing only a few are worth keeping. I can see the future. Eventually, our children and their children will inherit these photos and they will ask themselves, “Who the heck are these people?” Actually, even if they knew who the people were, they would have no need or desire to keep most of them. So, what are we AND you going to do?
First of all, I know we have drawers of slides. The slides show places long forgotten. Unless they show the family or the homestead, they should be round filed. I also know there are rolls of film that never been developed. Again RF. Some show people we’ve loved, but our kids have no idea who they are.
I suggest setting up a card table and making piles of similar photos: people, family, organizations, events, vacations, holidays, etc. If nothing fits into your major piles make one miscellaneous file.
Once you have an idea of what you have you can more easily decide on what to do with them. If it turns out you have lots of photos that mean absolutely nothing to you then it will make the final decision easy.
Look at your piles of photos and slides and think about storing them or even having them digitized. This means buying a device to scan them and spending the time, or sending out to a professional to convert to digital storage. Depending on the number of slides, this can get spendy.
Look at what you have. Do you really need photos from the Daffodil Parade? The answer is yes, if you have a child or grandchild waving in the parade. You marching with fifty fellow band members might not be worth keeping for the following generations. Your brother’s photo of him in uniform from the jungles of Vietnam or the deserts of Iraq or Afghanistan, however would be a keeper.
If you have photos that go along with family stories, then those are definitely keepers. My sisters, who came along fifteen years or so after me, would often sneeringly (mock) remark, “You got a pony!” I will keep the photos of my Shetland pony, Koko. Peg has photos of Paris and the Eiffel Tower, but what makes them interesting is the family story of her and her sister Pat being embarrassed to have their picture taken with a young French sailor, all because her mom thought he was cute. Photos enhance stories.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but mostly a photo without a story is virtually useless. Take for example an image of Scottie’s Castle in Death Valley. It’s worth perhaps a shrug of the shoulders. My parents, grand parents, and I drove through Death Valley in 1953. In those days when you drove across that desert you had a bag of water hanging off your hood ornament dangling down in front of your radiator. We stopped at a water tank mid-way across. I got out of the car and started to walk around the car, but quickly got back inside. It felt like my shoes were on fire after just a few steps. Always remember if you don’t know why a photo was taken, how important will it be to someone else . . . even if they are family?
Once you have winnowed your piles down, then invite family over to review. If they don’t come, then you know what is going to happen to your photos and memories. RF!
One thing to remember, artists are always looking for photos, antique as well as just dated or as young as the 50s to 90s. They use them in collage, sketch books, manuscripts, journals and on cards. If you don’t know who to give them to, contact the Tacoma Calligraphy Guild at TacomaCalligraphyGuild.com. Go to the right column and contact the Guild there.