Last Summer when I was visiting family in Texas, I was over at my aunt’s house and we were looking through old photos of my grandparents and aunts and uncles as kids and just extended family in general. It was so special getting to hear stories and talk with her candidly about family secrets and reminisce about my sweet, beloved Grandma. I found a few prized photos that captured a side of her that I never got to see but that I could always see there in her eyes. She had a rough life but she was so beautiful and thinking about her life and the eras past has always been so magical for me.
My 5 year old daughter, Juliet, attends Irish dance classes at the Phinney Neighborhood Center. Last week there was an event there and her class was moved from their usual room to another one in a different building, which I now think is actually older. As I walked the halls waiting for her to get out, I began to notice photographs hanging there. Naturally, they caught my eye. As I mentioned before, this sort of thing is magical for me. Weird quirky Sarah fact: I am one of those people that you could say was born in the wrong decade or whatever; I wouldn’t say I love history, because I don’t, but I do love the idea of the different fashions and trends of each passing age and I have a particular love for certain decades in the last century (namely, the 40′s, 20′s, 50′s, and 70′s… in that order). Anyway, these photos intrigued me because they were from those exact decades so I found them interesting on that level. I also like to look at old photos for processing inspiration. (I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I edit things a little differently than the average photographer.)
As I was strolling those halls and briefly pausing at each photo and observing the hairstyles and the film grain and the tones of the images, I was struck by the simple fact that many (if not all) of the people in those images were gone from this world. How many photos were there of them? What was left to mark what their face looked like? The clothes that they wore? The expressions they made? The things they did? Maybe it was just this one photograph from 1920. Is this morbid? Yeah, a little bit. But do you see where I am going with this? I am sure those photos have hung on the walls of that building for decades. The photos I am sharing with you today have been carefully treasured for decades. I deeply, deeply, deeply miss my grandmother. I did not know her at the time these photos were taken, obviously, but just seeing them brings me such comfort. It’s a window into her life. My Grandma died 4 months before my oldest child was born and I will probably never get over the fact that she was never able to see her youngest grandchild become a mother (and she so wanted so; she would talk to me for hours about how she couldn’t wait to hold my “itty bitty”), but having these photos and being able to peek into her life allows me to relate to her and keep her with me. I’m so glad that her sisters took these photos. I’m holding on to my memories; are you holding on to yours?
Clearly, I have gotten far more personal in this post than i normally do (I think…) but I really wanted to drive my point home. So often i hear photographers referring to our industry as a luxury industry; I’ve come to believe it is so much less of a luxury than we make it out to be. We are devaluing ourselves and our work. What we do is important. We need to remember the importance of a good photograph and just what it is that a good photo can do; a good one can take your right back to that moment! A good photo can make you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel the way you felt when the shutter snapped. A good photo is the closest thing we have to a time machine.
It is so easy for me to just get caught up in the every day stuff of life that I don’t want to pick up my camera and document what is going on in my own house. ”There’s too much laundry.” ”The kids are dirty.” ”My house is a mess.” ”I don’t have any makeup on.” ”I need to lose another 15 pounds. Or another 50.” ”I don’t like the way my husband’s hair looks today.” ”I’ll just take a photo tomorrow.” ”The lighting isn’t very good right now.” These are the thoughts that so often go through my head. Do they sound familiar? I know this time next year I am going to wish I had taken that photo because my babies will be that much older and the lighting is still not going to be right and the laundry is still going to be piled up. Who cares if all of your snapshots aren’t perfect? That’s why you hire me! And that’s why I drag my kids out every so often and make them give me a proper session (like I am sure every photographer does with their own children). My point is this: just do it! Give your families a time machine. Give them a lot of time machines. And don’t forget how important those time machines are.