This week I concluded a very personal project, undertaken for my 92 year old grandfather Mac, to scan photos with in 12 cherished family photo albums. Amazingly some of the photos scanned date back to the early 1900’s. When I first took on this task it seemed to be straight forward… scan a large quantity of images at high resolution for archival purposes and distribute them to family on hard drives. What I didn’t anticipate was the time intensive process helping me see not just the events that were noteworthy to my grandmother and grandfather, but the events that made them who they are.
Perhaps its my age and having just had a child, but the ability to devote hours of time to look over images that span decades hit a nerve. Individually many of the photos were just snapshots, but collectively they were history. A history of universal moments including children being born, graduations, grandchildren being born, vacations, relatives now no longer with us, career milestones, etc. that I myself will no doubt document for my family. Photos I viewed and scanned were not just photos, but time capsules.
My grandfather is holding up incredibly well considering his age, but he does struggle with memory lapses of increasing severity. He has always been an inspiration to many in our family, a self made man trained in the military, and it has blown me away that he’s been so eager to have these photos scanned. I’d never have thought he’d be on email at this late stage in his life, but he is and eager to see his photo albums online. His eagerness to view these images online is driven by motivations other than just seeing them on a computer. With failing vision and most importantly a failing memory these photos are a connection to his past that increasingly escapes him and the ability to enlarge photos on a computer make them easier to see.
This Thanksgiving will be a special time as I get to deliver a family history to him in a digital format. Not only will he get a chance to revisit time & places past, see his late wife & brothers with these photos, but he’ll also be introduced for the first time to the next generation of our family when he meets his great grandson for the first time. This Thanksgiving has been a long time coming in more ways than one and I’m very excited that it has finally arrived.
From my family to yours have a great and safe Thanksgiving… and don’t take those family photo albums for granted.
[tags]photography, family, Thanksgiving[/tags]
What an incredible gift you’re giving your grandpa! The impact of your gift will be felt for generations. I honor you for your kindness and thoughtfulness. Happy Thanksgiving 🙂
Beautiful! I have also been engaged in a similar project, and it’s really precious to have these historical documents of family. I know your grandfather will be thrilled! Happy Thanksgiving, Jim, to you and yours!
TIme well invested Jim. I have been doing the same with family photos as part of an ongoing family tree project. Except it’s taken me longer as I only do it when I go home to visit my parents. Long days of visiting with them and long nights of scanning photos. I’m sure you’re son and the rest of your family will appreciate the hard work!
Definitely a lot of work but I did the same thing a few years ago and see the photos used for various family projects these days so it was worth it. Hopefully someone else can do them if we need more. 🙂
This is a great and very moving story, makes me want to do it for my family sometime. Happy Thanksgiving.
I would be interested in hearing about the process…what scanner you used, workflow, what you would do different, etc.
It’s easy to forget that as photographers, we really are the visual historians of a family’s life story.
I learned that lesson when I had the idea of shooting portraits of my friend and his wife – but let the project sit on the back burner. His wife passed away unexpectedly several months later. It still pains me greatly to think of the opportunity missed.