[Editor’s note: Bob Keesy shares some of his experiences saving family stories for his grandkids.]
How different it is now for our children in this digital age than it was for us and our parents. My dad was the photographer in my family. I remember him using the simple black box point and shoot camera of the day and a fancier fold out bellows camera. Dad stepped up to buying a Polaroid land camera. He wasn’t an especially skilled photographer, just the average hobbyist-level dad.
I also think he loved to be the center of the activity at family events, taking and developing his Polaroid’s on the spot to capture the family stories. When it was folded up flat the camera was about the size of a tissue box and when it unfolded it also used a bellows to protect the light path. A negative sheet was exposed inside the camera, then lined up with a positive sheet and squeezed through a set of rollers which spread a chemical between the two layers, creating a developing film sandwich. I remember that after a minute, negative peeled away to reveal the print. Amazing to have an instant black and white photograph in your hands so quickly! Technology has zoomed ahead since my dad took his Polaroid’s.
My son and daughter-in-law are well on their way to taking hundreds and hundreds of digital images of our new twin grandchildren. They use their camera, phone, and iPad and camcorder. I will never have a shortage of images of their twins. Becoming a new grandparent makes me more aware that I have a lot of photos, Polaroid and regular, my dad took. Many of these photos tell a story about the family, whether it is about my siblings, my parents, my grandparents, or other relatives. It is easier for our children to share their digital images with us than it is for the other way around, for us as parents and grandparents to share our images and memories to them. We are the holders of our short stories of our family and our past.
I need to get busy and start putting something together for the twins. I know that someday when they get older, their parents and they would like to know the interesting stories about the family. Even this story will help them to better know their Great Grandpa Ken and that he loved the idea of instant photos fifty years ago.
Unfortunately it seems that this project doesn’t have a pressing deadline. It is too easy to procrastinate. But the truth is there is a level of urgency that needs to be considered.
- As originals photos or prints age, they are harder to save and restore; especially when they are very often stored in poor choice locations; hot attics or damp basements. They are also scattered and lost.
- Accidents of nature do happen, whether it is water, fire, storm, or worse.
- If you do collect and digitize your family photos and album you get to be the first in your family to author the stories that go with the images. Wouldn’t you want to get your bylines into the story line rather than leaving it entirely to another family member? You can still be fair and give them a chance to review and give you editorial feedback.
- We all know that we are only given so many days. We have different seasons in our life. You really should consider if you are now in a season for your life where saving photo and word stories deserves to be a priority in your day. I know that I am.