This past week, I photographed a total of 31 people. My subjects ranged from seven months old to 90. I was moved by the love I witnessed in their interactions with each other.
It may sound cliche, but it’s true of my work: I’ve always wanted to make a positive difference in the world. Throughout my life, I’ve chosen careers that do that. I’ve worked in counseling, teaching, and writing. My contact with students and clients enabled them to change their lives and their businesses in meaningful ways. When I changed careers and became a photographer, I also became a family historian, of sorts.
When I was younger, I loved looking at family photos. Without them, I would never know if I looked like Grandma Cross. (I didn’t.) I could never have imagined what Grandma and Grandpa Beckwith looked while they were courting. (Who knew they were once…young?) Mom had always been “Mom” to me, and I couldn’t imagine — without pictures — what she would have looked like as a child. (The family resemblance was obvious between us.) Seeing my family members in pictures helped me to piece together a family history that I was part of but did not directly experience. For that reason alone, I cherish the printed image.
That’s why when I became a mother, I invested in pictures…at the time of each child’s birth, then every three months, and every year. I scheduled photo sessions. I bought. I shared. I’ve always felt that pictures show that you love someone and that our lives matter. I have always felt that hanging pictures on my walls made a house a home.
People are taking more pictures than ever these days. In fact cell phones make it easier than ever to capture images. I’m a fan of modern technology; however, taking pictures is now so easy that printed portraits have taken a back seat to the instant selfie.
That means there’s an entire generation of people who will be missing from family photo albums. Yes, some people still print pictures but a lot of people skip the photographer and share online without printing portraits. As technology changes our cell phones will become obsolete. I can’t imagine that people will look through a drawer of discarded cell phones like my generation looked through a box of old photographs. There’s more of a connection when you can hold a printed image in your hands.
With printed portraits, the images will outlive me as well as the people in them. I know that long after I am gone, family members will connect with those of us that lived before them. I value portraits because I value people. That value does not diminish when we cease to exist.
When the young babies in the pictures I took this weekend grow into young ladies and the young boy who played in the park becomes a man, they won’t remember meeting. However, I’ll be part of their family history because I stood behind the lens and got the shot that made that moment in time stand still.
I am incredibly grateful that they will have pictures to commemorate what their memories cannot recall. I hope they love their family photographs as much as I loved mine.