Giving my photos some new life

Giving my photos some new life


I’ve tried to remember when I was growing up, how many pictures were on display in my home. What I recall is that we didn’t have that many. Not compared to what I saw in other people’s houses, or the fictional homes that I would see on TV. It felt like the few photos we did have on display were put there more by obligation than desire. My mom (who has passed away) would have been the one responsible for such things, and I never thought to ask her about why she did, or didn’t like hanging photos on the wall.

Now when it came to taking pictures, there was much more intention. Both my mom and dad would gather my sister and I in front of the camera for significant events and holidays. Photos that captured poses in front of the Christmas tree, the spontaneous snapshots opening birthday presents, and silly moments of our dogs doing goofy tricks or other adorable random things. I know partly why we took more photos than we framed. They were to send to my grandparents and extended family who lived in Minnesota.

As I grew up, my relationship with being photographed, and photos in general, was nuanced. As far as being photographed, I was self-conscious because of body image insecurity issues. I knew I should’t feel bad about how I looked in photos, but that didn’t mean I didn’t. I think that insecurity bled over into framing and putting photos on display. I liked the idea of having a lot of photos outlining the timeline of my life, but that didn’t mean I actually wanted to look at them every day. What was much easier for me to enjoy when it came to photos was organizing them. Because as you know, I LOVE to organize just about anything I can get my hands on.

Which is a good thing, because regardless of how I felt about photos, I own three generations of film paper memories. In addition to those I’ve taken over the past three decades or so, I also inherited all of the photos from my grandparents— most of my maternal (which were in my mother’s possession; my sister and I divided them up), and some of my paternal. I haven’t officially counted but I am sure there are at least several hundred prints, and thousands of digital images on top of that. Having them makes me both proud and sad at the same time.

Proud because I’m honored to me the keeper of such rare family keepsakes. But sad because they’ve just been sitting in a box for years, not seeing the light of day. Indeed, it has been a years long goal of mine to properly sort, scan and archive all of the photos in my possession. Time has not treated the oldest photos well. Many have faded or discolored to a point barely recognizable. I want to get them all digitized and properly stored before more are damaged as well.

Additionally, I have this existential philosophy about photographs. I feel like they don’t have life unless they are shared. Yes, of course they mean something to the person who is taking the picture, or the subject of it; but shouldn’t they have the chance to have meaning in their own right? Shouldn’t they be able to live a larger intention?

The reason why I said that having so many old family photos stored in boxes makes me sad is because they aren’t being allowed the opportunity to live beyond their box. When my mom died, the photos she owned would have died with her, had I not taken possession of them. And not that I am planning on going anywhere, but unless I do something with all my photos, the same will be true for me.

And that is something I will not accept. I’m not arrogant enough to think that everyone will feel the same about my photos that I do— every silly snapshot or poorly lit landscape— but I am at least going to give them the opportunity to be seen by those who want to see them.

I did some research on online photo storage sites and I settled on SmugMug. My goal is to, by the end of the year, have all of my photos scanned, properly archived, and organized in albums (both physical and digital). I’m not kidding myself on how huge this project is. But a) I’m not scared of big projects (organizing, wahoo!!) and b) as with any big project, you have to start somewhere.

So my starting somewhere is my first album of Drew and my Washington and Canada Roadtrip last summer. You can check it out here. Over time I’m going to be adding more photos. My hope is with some of the family albums, family members will contribute information about the photos. Either who is in them, or when they were taken. Another feature I like about SmugMug is you can have highly customizable privacy and security settings.

I should note that I don’t take sponsorships for things I talk about on the blog. SmugMug isn’t compensating me in anyway to write about their site. I will probably write a more full review later in the year once I have uploaded more photos, but in the short time I’ve worked with it, I’ve been pleased. Their UI is fairly intuitive and they are an established company that has been around for a long time. That doesn’t predict much in Silicon Valley, but they did acquire Flickr a few years ago, so at least they are a bigger fish.

As far as my project goes, I’m excited to see how it unfolds, and confidently optimistic that at the end of it, all of my photos will have taken on a new life of their own. A life that I hope will expand beyond the moment that was originally captured.