The rise and rise of family photographs . It is an interesting article that discusses the ubiquitous nature of photographs today. It provides a brief synopsis of photography's rise to make the capture of a human's visage and form an ordinary event and not an extraordinary one as it was a little over half a century ago. The author uses his personal family photos and some stories associated with them to relate how photographs convey heritage and "
RT @ddaruth: The rise & rise of family #photographs http://tinyurl.com/6hbchnu [I like this, but only answer is NOT 2 keep everything!]"
I heard back from the person who brought the article to my attention. She wrote "@archivesinfo Good advice, but so very difficult! How do you decide what to discard?"
How fortunate that I just wrote about keeping photographs in my upcoming book "Preserving Memories," which is due out later this year. (Shameless pre-publication plug?) In this posting, I will explain how family record keepers should approach appraisal (deciding what to keep and what to get rid of) for personal photo collections. We really do not need to keep everything. We do not need to be afraid to determine what is unnecessary. We do not need to leave the "dirty work" for our descendants. If we do, eventually someone is likely to get frustrated and just throw the whole kit-and-kaboodle into the trash. Handing down a well-managed collection of personal papers and photographs to loved ones encourages them to treasure the items, keep up their maintenance, AND to value the family history that they embody.
- Think of your printed photos and digital files as one "collection." Your images visually tell your family story. What events, people and places do you want to remember?
- Start simply. The simplest way to reduce the burden you may feel with your collection is to remove duplicates. You only need one copy of each image. Then consider images that are similar. Do you really need a close-up of your birthday cake and then ten images showing mom brining the cake into the room, putting it on the table, you blowing out candles, etc.? Which of the images in the series best represent the occasion? You may find that three out of ten cover all aspects of the story, from the people who were there to what you wore. You may find that just one does the trick.
- Are all of the images in good condition? Sometimes the condition of an image can help narrow the field. However, also weigh if the image fills a gap in your story. If the image is in poor condition, but is the only one of its kind. Keep it.
- Do you know anything about the image? Is the person someone you don't know? Can someone else in your family identify the person in the image? If an old image sits around for years and nobody can be found who knows anything about it, do you really need to keep it? (No)
- Sometimes we just get snap-happy. I really enjoyed taking photographs of the mountains out of my car window up in North Conway, NH on a recent vacation there, but really most of the images look the same. The mountains may have been different and exciting in person, but in an image they don't convey much. I'll get rid of most of them.
- Remember that a printed photograph is not more valuable than one on your computer. We sometimes tend to more easily press the delete key than throw away an image. An image on paper does not embody a certain specialness that makes it more precious than any other kind of document. Make decisions about its future the same way you would make decisions about anything else.
- Always think about the story of the image. As our wise article writer points out, a photograph helps convey a family history. Does an image tell you something about the person pictured? Does it give a sense of place? Does it give a sense of time? Does it adequately tell you about an event? Is it just mundane with no informational value? If it doesn't have informational value, get rid of it.
- Does the image pique your curiosity? I have a few images of nameless people in nameless places that ring bells. The pictures can be used to describe a legend in my family. If I can guess about a person's identity even though I can't confirm it, I often find an image worth keeping.
- Step back once in awhile and take a look at your photographs as a whole. Do they work together to convey a good sense of who you are and the people in your life? What is missing from the story? What images do not add to the story? Aim to create a tight grouping of materials that show the stages of your life and the lives of your loved ones. Keep images showing people changing through time. Keep the obvious highlights. Keep the images that convey personalities. Keep the ones that provide a sense of place. Get rid of those that don't add to the story.
- Organize your images to increase their value to future generations. Use an album or photo box to sort by subject or date. I keep my most prized images in chronological order. The images that I don't want to see regularly, but I still consider worthwhile for keeping are arranged by subject in more economical and less time consuming photo boxes.
- Think of the organization of your digital images the same way you consider your printed files. Organize them in chronological folders as they are pulled from your camera. Use a software package that allows you to tag them with keywords for easy access.
- Label, label, label. If a photo is worth keeping, you should provide its back-story. Use a photo safe pen or pencil to record the name of the person, place, and/or event depicted. If there is a "story" to the image, supply as much as you can of that too.
- Do not try to do everything at once. Do not get overwhelmed. Review your family photograph collection a little at a time. If you are unsure about something you think you might want to throw away, wait to review it on another day. When in doubt, create a checklist of pros for keeping and pros for letting go. Appraisal is a bit of an art and not a science. Use your best, careful judgement.
@ddaruth this one's for you ;)