There are a lots of reasons for taking pictures. One of the most important is to remember. Not just for you to remember but for your children to remember and your children's children to remember.
We recently had a friend of Paul's Photo, Stephanie, come by with some old negatives. She was cleaning out a shoe box of photos she had stowed away during college 30 years ago. As she flipped through the pictures she found some old Brownie negatives. She couldn't remember how they got in there and she couldn't tell what was on them.
Stephanie brought her negatives by The Lab at Paul's Photo and asked us what she should do. Of course we thought she should scan them (negatives hold so much information even if it looks like they're too clear, too dark, too scratched, too dusty; there's probably something there). Well, it turns out there sure was something there. The negatives were family pictures from 1930 to 1936. There were pictures of her mother at three years old with her grandma, pictures of her uncles playing together and family pictures of the family during Easter. Stephanie told us about how her mom was always the princess of the family and now she actually has proof. And she shared about how her uncles have always been best friends, even today when they're in their 80's and living a continent apart.
The pictures also brought up new stories about her family. When she showed the prints to her aunt and uncles they started tearing up. They shared about their neighbors. She found out they where living in East LA in a Japanese neighborhood as the only Mexican family. She learned that her aunt ,who had a career in the fashion industry, was a tomboy growing up and hated cats.
What strikes me about Stephanie's experience is that these pictures weren't really for her. They were made by relatives two generations before Stephanie. But the pictures her grandparents made have become a part of her story and they inform the stories that her kids learn about who they are. These pictures have power, a kind of power that I don't normally think about when I'm photographing my family: we are writing the history of our family.
I asked Stephanie about her experience at The Lab at Paul's Photo. She said the staff were kind and interested in her negatives. They were more than willing to put the pictures on a flash drive and made two sets of prints (her aunts and uncles took all of the prints so it's a good thing she has that flash drive). I'm was glad to hear that because we feel like we're doing something pretty special at Paul's Photo and we want you to know we will care for your families' photographs.
I asked if there's anything she would tell herself or you for that matter. Stephanie said she feels lucky that her mother is the only one of that generations that's passed away but she said it's important to take the time to sit down with relatives and write the stories on the back of the pictures. And make sure to print an extra set for yourself.
There's a flood of pictures being made today like no other time in history. We hope you'll take the time to thinking about what they mean to you, to tell your story and to write your families history. If you need help, we're here for you.