What You Should Capture, and Why
I have a family page that is private and only shared with family and friends. It contains images dating back to 1964. This site has taken me many hours of design, coding and other miscellaneous work over the years. I first made the site in 1999 so that my mother could see photos of my kids as they grew without having to wait for me to mail them. This was a great idea because I never mailed photos. The site has grown to a 40,000 image archive of my life, and the lives of my family. It is now a cherished heirloom.
The images contained in the site from the 60′s and 70′s are, for the most part, scanned from 30-40 year old slides. Many have deteriorated over time. I have endeavored to “fix” them as much as possible, but for many the damage of years of storage is too great to overcome. It gives me great solace to think that they will now be archived as digital replicas, thus progressing my father’s early photographic visions into the age of computers. He would have been absolutely thrilled at the idea.
To bear witness to the early history of my own life from my father’s point of view, is priceless beyond words. I encourage all reading this to take and archive more pictures of your children, and perhaps more importantly, of yourselves.
You see for years as I learned more and more about photography, I shied away from pictures of people. Perhaps my own inhibitions are to blame, but the fact remains that of my own honeymoon, I took hundreds of pictures, of which perhaps 20-30 contain images of myself and Lauren. Now 15 years later the landscapes are still beautiful, but they’re empty.
As I went through the exercise of scanning these slides, I realized something. Though the pictures my dad took of West Point in 1969 are beautiful, I really could not care less about them. You see the only pictures that matter – that’s worth repeating – the ONLY pictures that matter so many years later are the ones with family and friends in them. The images of places and things are mere curiosities, while the others – those with people I knew and loved, many of whom are no longer with us, THOSE images are the ones that make my heart swell and bring a tear to my eye.
A few years ago I got the chance to take pictures of the inside of the farmhouse I grew up in. It was a bittersweet joy because the house was being sold for the final time – to be torn down in favor of new construction. The memories that the inside of that house brought forth prompted me to look for old slides of the farm, so that others might wonder at the beauty of the farm where I grew up. What I found in my search for images surprised me. Images of my childhood, and of the people surrounding it, all meticulously cataloged 30-40 years ago. See I had a box of slides given me by my mother many years ago, and I had never looked in the box past the first layer. I never seemed to have had the time.
Scanning slides is an arduous process. The time spent however, has been so rewarding that it seems like no time at all. I also discovered an interesting thing during the process. My dad archived many images. I would estimate that perhaps 60-70 percent of them were people; family, friends and neighbors. Quite the opposite of my own shooting style as evidenced by my honeymoon.
With the birth of my daughters, my shooting style has changed. Probably 80% of my images are now of people. It was not a conscious choice, but rather a shift in what I cared to record as life marched on. How interesting that two small children could teach me a lesson I never realized I had learned. How amazing that my father, dead now some 27 years, could enlighten me to what I’d learned but never seen.
My dad’s name was Everett. He loved photography, and loved to teach me about it, though often I had no idea I was learning. My mother recently told me that my skill with a camera now surpassed his, a compliment which touched me to the very core. Indeed as I look at these older images, not all of them are of technical perfection. In many ways the best pictures were taken by my mom. Why? Because my dad is in them. He was the photographer, like me, who never had pictures of himself. My dad rarely smiled. To find an image of him smiling is a rarity. Still the captions he hand-wrote on the slide borders convey his absolute adoration for his son.
When I was little, my dad would sometimes let me sit on his lap while he drove the tractor. I found some pictures of this in the magic box of memories, and the images made me cry as I scanned them late at night with everyone else in bed asleep. Why? Because in those pictures he is smiling. So am I.
As I sat here scanning slides, I repeatedly thanked my dad for recording these images so that I could rediscover them so many decades later. Seeing his hand-written notes, and knowing that he was quite likely the last person to have touched the slides as he put them into their magazines, well you can imagine what that must have been like for me.
This web page, with its countless pictures is my way of recording my children’s lives for them. My hope is that in the future, they will never have to wish they had pictures of their childhood, or their mom or dad, or pictures of that house where they grew up. All of my photos – each and every one is my gift to them. I never understood that my father was creating gifts for me. Another lesson learned. Thank you Papa.
I emplore you all to take more pictures. Take more video. Include yourself any way you can. Find the shoebox of prints in your closet and put them into albums – better yet scan them and put them on CD or DVD. When your spouse or roomate asks you what you’re doing, tell them “Everett taught me that I should archive my pictures”. When they ask who Everett is, just smile and think of my dad. That’s what I do.