I know this sounds harsh, but after a decade of working with clients on photos for personal and business histories, I’ve learned that unmarked photos lurking in boxes and old photo albums become memories lost, particularly for anyone too young to have been in the picture. These boxes also give us a false sense of security for family treasure troves that should be stored securely on a hard drive—the physical photo, like the memories, will fade.
With some sleuthing and organizing work, these photos can be sorted out by the names of the people and places they picture. Your treasures can be salvaged, and handed down to the people you love. Take note of the year, and your photos can even be sorted chronologically to piece together a family timeline with the wealth of photos you have lurking in your home. And, by scanning and sorting pictures, they become the vehicle for teasing out memories that would otherwise be lost.
I’ve lived this with many clients, but it wasn’t until recently that I had to face this truth with my own family photo collection. If it takes a village to raise a child, it definitely takes one to piece together the details of my family photo inventory. They’ve been sitting in boxes and decaying in photo albums, waiting on me to apply all my professional know-how. Finally, I got the itch.
In recent weeks I’ve scanned hundreds of images, named files, and meta-tagged my catalog by people with the purpose to share this digital archive with my children and family. As someone in my mid-50s, so I still like and deal in the Old World of hard copies, but I know that if these pictures are to have a shelf-life beyond my years they need to be stored digitally have information applied to them.
The result thus far is beautiful and searchable, and it's even fun to do this time-consuming work. While I’ve digitized, I’ve remembered. There's been laughter, reflection, and dose or two of chagrin. (Did I really think that hair was a good look?)
The ultimate payoff is that these photos—and the memories within them—will live on at least to those closest to me, but the bigger bonus (and maybe the most important reason we do any picture taking or storytelling) is to connect. It has been a blast to share these old photos along with snippets of text with my grown children, nieces, and nephews. They’ve been gracious and receptive, and we are getting an unplanned opportunity to connect.
Plan your own opportunity to connect—you'll give your photos and their memories new life.