Keeping legacies | Family Photographer | Skagit County, WA
Above: My mom (center) and dad (right) on their wedding day, June 1, 1946.
I've shared before how much I have a passion for keeping memories . . . seems like I have always gravitated to those things, even as a kid.
Example: when I was a kid, if one of our pets died, it was traumatizing to me. I was not able to move through my grief until I'd done something to memorialize my beloved furry friend. Sometimes it was in the form of a poem, other times a childlike, makeshift gravestone. Either way, I was compelled to find a way to keep their memory alive. (Confession: I still do it as an adult. When our beloved German Shepherd, Sophie, died several years ago, I wrote a poem, printed it with her photo, and framed it.)
So, I suppose it's not surprising that I would grow up to eventually write what are, in essence, biographies. I currently work on a project basis for a local community college, interviewing alumni, and writing their stories. The articles are published on the college website and an accompanying ad is published in local newspapers, highlighting a photo of the alum. I've met people from all walks of life, all ages, and I absolutely love it. I never thought I'd be sitting down to interview the ex-president of Starbucks and, if I did imagine it, I would have thought of being somewhat intimidated. But, you know, after you meet a certain number of people, you begin to understand that we're all very much alike, just with different stories.
It's not too hard to guess, then, why I love photography. I suppose if you did some kind of psychological analysis on me, you'd discover that I have a hard time letting go. I want to make moments last, especially the ones that are particularly meaningful, whether it be momentous life events, or the simple, ordinary moments that would have passed unnoticed if it hadn't been for the aptly-timed snap of the shutter.
I have a hard time understanding why a couple planning a wedding, for instance, would skimp on the budget for their wedding photos. The flowers will wilt, the cake will be eaten, the reception hall will darken, but the only thing that will last (except for their love, hopefully), are the photos of that momentous day.
One day in the future, a grandma may sit down on the sofa with her grandchild, pat his knee, and open up the wedding album that has been carefully preserved for just this moment. She'll reminisce about the day as if it just happened a week ago, pointing out the relatives who have long since passed. Her eyes will light up and her face will become more animated as she talks about the moment she laid eyes on her handsome groom waiting for her at the front of the church. She'll re-live those moments right there in front of her grandchild and he'll get a glimpse of a woman he never knew—the one veiled in gray hair and wrinkles—who danced until midnight at her wedding.
Those are the reasons to keep your memories. They are a tangible way to pass on your legacy, whether you know it or not.
Why am I waxing philosophical about these things? Well, this week, I was reminded of how important they are and what an honor it is for me to help preserve someone's legacy.
When I arrived at work last Thursday, my supervisor informed me that one of the alums that I had interviewed several months ago had died last December. Immediately, my heart dropped.
The alum, Jim, had led a very interesting life, traveling the world teaching journalism. Before the interview, I looked at photos of him in the college yearbook. I saw a baby-faced young man sitting at a typewriter, editing the college newspaper. When I met him in person, I encountered a small, unassuming, slightly hunched elderly man. Like most people of his generation, he was very polite and well-spoken.
I asked him if his grandchildren knew about all the things he'd done, the adventures in China, for example. He thought for a moment, and said, “Well, no, I don't think so.” I suggested that, since he was a journalist, he should write his story for his grandchildren. He agreed that might be a good idea.
But, my article had to suffice instead. I hope that, in some small way, my efforts helped his grandchildren get to know a little more about their grandpa.
Later in the day, I attended a staff meeting and was stunned to learn that the grandfather of one of my co-workers had passed away last week. This was the same grandfather I had interviewed in January and who visited our photo studio for a family photo to be used in our alumni ad. He was a veteran of WWII and had worn his old army uniform for the photos. He sat proudly in the front row, posing for the photos, holding the hand of his sweet wife. He shared the story of meeting her and how, during their first encounter, he informed her that he planned to marry her. (You can read the full article here.)
Those January photos are the last photos his wife, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren have of their beloved ‘Papa.' The significance of that interview and photo shoot was made all the more meaningful.
Please forgive me if this blog entry comes across as self-serving, as my intent is only to remind you that life passes quickly. If you're waiting to lose weight, get that bonus at work, buy the right clothes—whatever it is that's keeping you from capturing your life or the life of your loved ones in photos—please think twice.
Life is a gift and none of us know how long we get to keep it. Yes, photography is an investment, but one that pays off again and again. Your grandchildren will thank you.
Do yourself a favor: please take the time to read this incisive article and/or view the short video below (try to look past the video's crass marketing and cheesiness factor). :-)