Many of the pictures I see have no heart. They are only snapshots, soon to be forgotten. It's almost like they are the pictures that came with the wallet. A stranger.
But I was amazed when a client brought in a big box of photos for me to scan, fix and restore. It was a large group of old family photos. Some over 100 years old. Many were amazing. My client told me stories about many of the people in the pictures. The great times she had at Grandma's place. Her father and his love. Her kids growing up and their adventures. Each picture reminded her of the persons background, challenges in their lives and the joy she had in knowing many of the people in the photographs. She told me how much love there was in their family. And she felt so lucky to have the pictures. Many of the people had passed on, but the pictures were still with her.
Old fashioned portraiture captured something special. Maybe even the soul of the person. The people seemed special and she had great respect for them.
Why were the pictures special? Most were taken by established portrait studios. They often placed the finished pictures in folders, proudly displaying the name of the studio. People were posed in a classic sense, rather than the casual snapshot style of today. They had dignity. The photograph worked to capture the person gracefully, use flattering light, careful printing and used materials that would last a lifetime. They took pride in the craftsmanship of photography and considered themselves artists. Many of these photographs still look fine and have minimal fading, even after 100 years. They can be handed downed for generations.
She had some snapshots too. She remarked that the quality difference was dramatic. Some were faded, many out of focus, others displayed terrible color, etc. She showed me a picture of her uncle and told me how handsome and successful he was. But the picture made him look ordinary and plain. She did not have a good photograph of some of her closest friends and relatives. The snapshots looked out of place next to the professional portraits. She wished that they had taken the time to have a quality portrait taken and sent to her.
I hear similar stories from so many people. They have no real photographs of their family. Just a few pictures they took with a phone. It's sad, one client told me she did not have a picture of her beloved grandfather, who passed away last year.
Our histories are fading. So few portrait studios and artists are left. Fifty or hundred years from now, what will we have left. A Twitter feed? Will your Facebook posts still be there? Will you have digital photos that cannot be retrieved or viewed, because the technology has changed so much? But the pictures of great photographers like famous landscape photographer Ansel Adams are still on view in museums, galleries and books.
Ask yourself a question. If your house was burning down and you only had a few minutes to grab a few things, what would you save? What is important and irreplaceable? Many people say it's the family photo album.
You can replace your TV, your phone can be backed up, you can buy new clothes or a new couch, but the memories of who you are, how you grew up and your family pictures cannot be replaced.