Footprints in the sand leading to my 3 year old son filled with awe at the vast expanse of water before him. Click. Three children perched upon a bench outside our home in their Sunday best laughing, poking, fidgeting; all eyes fixed upon my lens for a brief moment. Click. My daughter, now a bride, shyly glances down to her bouquet while in the arms of her beloved. Click.
Click, click, click! As droplets of water make the ocean; as little grains of sand make the beach, one photograph taken and printed, added to the next photograph taken and printed, and so on create a priceless yet tangible memorial of a life; your life, your one precious amazing life. The birth of a baby, the graduation of a son, the first tulip of spring or the laughing children playing in puddles after a storm; these are the moments that make up our life. And, when collected, properly printed and properly stored or displayed, these moments can be relived again and again and again. When memory fails us the printed photograph can transport us back in time to smell, hear, feel and see things that have forever changed.
The power to stand still the hands of time? To scoop a moment from the fast moving stream of life and preserve it and hold it in your hands, fixing it unchanged for a lifetime? What a gift! What a power! What a privilege!
I am approaching my 50th year walking on this earth, feeling life with all its extremes of joy and pain, love and loss, trials and victories, mountain tops and valleys. With 27 years of marriage under my belt, 4 children raised and homeschooled from Kindergarten through high school graduation, and a new baby granddaughter, I have had a lot of experience with life. I consider myself one of the fortunate ones that felt, early on, the need to immortalize the mortal, to lay a trap for the Time Bandit and capture stray moments to keep and to cherish for all my days. I have faithfully photographed the stages of our life and have made sure to print a large number of those images along the way. I have chosen to preserve them in a scrapbook style, or by framing them and hanging on the walls of our home, or by placing them in safe and proper photo albums or by keeping them in boxes under our bed. My printed photographs are among some of my most cherished possessions.
How many of you have tearfully tried to gather a few photographs of a recently departed loved one? A decent, true to life portrait that reflects back to you the love and the warmth of the person they were? How many actual, printed photographs do you have of yourself or of your children? In a generation of selfie-taking, Facebook-posting, Instagramming people, there seems to be an incredible dearth of actual, printed photographs; printed, physical images to be passed on from one generation to another. So, for a generation that takes so many pictures, how many of them will actually be able to be viewed by future generations? I heard someone say once, “In 50 years, the most photographed generation in history will have no pictures. Print what you want to preserve.” I agree.
Here’s an example of what to do with your printed images: hang them on ribbon boards or something similar. Two boards hang on our bedroom wall. I call these my portals of time. Flanking my bureau they stand as two pillars, monuments of what makes us, us. These are printed reminders of why we are called a family and what that means forevermore. The past and the present intermingle here on one board. Moments held suspended in time on photographic paper gingerly tacked to a board on our wall.
Moments that have traveled through the bottleneck of the hourglass should be viewed with gratitude and not only as a window to our past, but also to our future. I look through these portals of time to see who I was and who I am and Whose I am by seeing where I’ve been and this solidifies a vision of where I am going and who I long to be.
I highly recommend finding the images of your past and placing them in your present; right before your face. I frequently stop and stare at these wonders, at these images that remind me of my position as wife, mother, daughter, sister. This reflection reminds me why I want to improve myself, to keep climbing upward and onward, and that I want to collect more memories to add to our wall. It reminds me to actively create the moments that we will want to capture and then pin to our wall.
Sometimes I find my husband stopping to look through these portals. My children, too, will occasionally be drawn to the boards as they notice a new image or two that has been added. When they do, they stop and stare. Their eyes drift from one image to the next, with a smile upon their face. They will point one out and vocalize their perspective of the memory. Often these comments produce laughter and, inevitable, warmth between the souls in the room.
Here’s another method of preserving images: Black Page Scrapbooks. Our scrapbooks wonderful examples of moments of life that have been plucked and preserved. My idea for using black pages came from my grandfather’s photo album. His measured about 6” x 9” with small photos mounted using black photo corners. A white ink was used to identify people and dates. It fascinated me to look into the eyes of my great-great-grandfather through a picture taken so long ago.
In our scrapbooks, poetry and pictures, quotes and homeschool work, notes and cards all mix together to tell our story. These become a valuable piece of family history that truly is a legacy that will be passed on from one generation to the next. And, in the meantime, they provide much amusement and generate feelings of warmth and unity among our family.
Now, how to create these pictures? Follow a few simples rules. Pictures of people are interesting. Great pictures of people are fascinating. I don’t know what it is about the printed picture, but people of all ages will pause and take in that encapsulated moment of time. You can be a creator of such treasures! Great portraits are a side effect of a strong human connection. And creating wonderful images can be very rewarding in many different ways.
So what makes a good image? I have four ideas.
a. Simple lines. According to Coco Chanel, "Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance." Think of the photograph you are creating as a piece of art. Think of the end result, the message you want to convey. Blend colors and textures in your viewfinder just as the artists selects and mixes colors.
b. No distracting clothing or background. It's good to have one main subject in your photograph. Your subject could be a group of people or an individual, but the viewer should know right away what the subject is. Sometimes it is important to keep your subject in context and include their immediate environment, but don't allow the environment to eclipse your subject.
c. True connection of the subject to the one viewing the photograph or to another person within the photograph. Focus on the eyes and capture the soul!
d. Try photographing ideas not just people or things. Ex: motherhood, love, devotion, bravery, etc.
People ever change; photos that are well printed and well preserved ever remain the same. Once you understand the transient nature of life; that all around you is constantly changing and that nothing around you today will be the same in a few tomorrows, then you will understand the preciousness of the printed photograph.
Take those pictures and print those pictures because photo paper memories don’t fade like our own memories. Oh, and, no one is going to pass down a USB drive from generation to generation.