I've often thought that if we should have a fire, the one thing I'd most hate to lose would be my pictures—the printed ones before digital cameras and smartphones took over.
For example, the picture here is the only photo my mother had of her father Bruce MacDonald (McDonald?) when he was young. With him is his older sister, Olive.
This photo would have been taken in about 1885 in Orillia, Ontario, just before their parents separated.
It's been edited on Photoshop to make it easier to see the details.
It's one of the photos I've used while blogging my memoir, LoveChild: Reflections of a Former Ugly Duckling.
In this picture, taken in 1911 in Moosomin, Saskatchewan, my grandmother, Alice MacDonald, is holding Olive Margaret, her first-born child, who became my mother. I assume it was taken the day Margaret was christened.
Alice was either almost 18 or had just turned 18. She'd married Bruce MacDonald the year before. This is one of a scant few photographs my mother had of herself as a child.
Of course, when I knew her, my grandmother was much older, and looked nothing like this. It's fascinating to me to try to picture what her life was like and how she became the person I knew. My mother, too, of course. That wasn't my reason for writing a memoir, but it has become one of my reasons for keeping going.
A while ago, I got smart and paid a student (our oldest grandson) to scan all my "old" pictures—the ones that came from my mother's photo albums. Then I put them into folders under my overall "Memoir" folder.
My ultimate goal is to have all my photos scanned, but since I was working on a memoir connected with my childhood and my parents, it was a no-brainer to start with the "oldest" pictures.
My oldest grandchild was taking photography and learning to do Photoshop at the time I was starting the memoir. Believe it or not, it was a school subject!
And she actually needed damaged photos for a class project!
I had a number of those—like the one above. Some had a crease in them. A few had gouges on the edges. Others were too dark or light. Many had dust marks or scratches. I paid said grandchild to work on some of them because it could be quite time-consuming (and she was better at it than I was anyway.)
This is the edited photo.
The look on Alice's face really makes me wonder what she was thinking that day...
A few tips about working with photos:
1. Gather your photos and create a timeline if you don't already have them organized in an album.
2. Have the photos scanned. Many printers also act as scanners. It's kind of tedious, so look for someone who needs spending money!
3. My mother wrote on the back of many of the older pictures. Otherwise I'd be lost. If you have photos, make sure to check the backs or any markings on the photos to look for clues about who the people were, where they were, etc. (And if you have photos you plan to pass on for your family, make sure there's something to let them know who the people were and, preferably, the date and location. I plan to label all the scanned pictures.)
4. Group the photos. E.g. I have all the photos of my mom's family in one section of an album, and in one computer folder. Makes it much easier to find what I'm looking for.
5. You can learn a whole lot studying the photos—the clothes, the setting, the looks on people's faces, etc. Often, forgotten memories come back, too. It's a bit like being a detective searching for clues.
6. It's great if you can ask someone else to confirm your memories. Which means, if you can, do this while the people who took the photos, or at least their contemporaries, are still around.