Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Album: Adding Value

It takes about the same kind of time, creativity, and concentration to produce a decent photo album as it does to write a good-sized novella. Within the compass of a functioning family, however, the value is great, particularly in this age of the flickering and therefore evanescent image.

This came to the fore the other day when my brother, Baldy, called me with an ancestral question—and I was glad that I had spent about three months (indeed the first three months of my retirement) collating old photographs of our family into albums. The work also required very extensive research. I knew the answer to Baldy’s question, but confirming it was vital, and looking through the album—here it was! Certainty.

The image I present here holds two photos of my paternal grandmother’s sisters, of my great-grandmother, and of my oldest aunt (the child she holds). The aunt had already died when I was born, but my great-grandmother was still alive; she was the oldest member of my family I had the privilege of knowing in the flesh. The movie makers are quite right in rendering the deep past in black and white; perhaps they got that from making albums of their own. Nineteenth century images, these, except, perhaps, the last.

Everything passes, but some things take a longer time: the paper album may survive the photo blog. Albums slowly sink, like buildings, covered over by the detritus of the forever Now. But occasionally they can be dug out again—or surface, surprisingly, and create strange timeless moments.

Making albums from a scatter of very old photos is relatively easy—except for the heavy research. Making albums from current photos is relatively difficult. Some research is still required. Now was that 1979—or was that 1976? Let’s see now. The real difficulty is selection. Only the most meaningful images deserve an album, and choosing them is creative work. Hence I class album-making as a high art. I know it when I see it.

The image of Ida (upper right) bears a remarkable resemblance to our daughter, Michelle, four generations removed. Believe me: remarkable!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, what a nice post. I had no idea you'd made family photo albums and with such wonderful, old photographs too. Yes, the likeness between Ida and Michelle is something else. I will send along some photos of Michelle which show it off nicely.