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05-25-2014, 10:03 PM   #1
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Historic/Older photos and perspective on memories

I have been a on a tear digitizing negatives and making prints of my family from a time period that spans from the mid-1920s to the mid-1990's. Each photo seems to have a story behind it. They were taken because the photographer and the subject/person at the time felt something special. Photos were a bit harder to come by back then compared to the spray-and-post patterns of today's social media. I have been taking these stories and combining them with the images to piece together my family's history. Some of my family members are very happy and willing to talk about the images but some are not. Those who are not happy and willing don't seem to have bad memories. Instead, their memories seem "tired". It's an old story that isn't interesting to them and they aren't interested in the fact that I am interested. They admit to destroying negatives and prints because they are remnants of an old life and they don't need it. Their memories are good enough.

It's interesting to me to see the difference between those who lived through the images I am seeing and myself who is trying to reconstruct it. There isn't any antagonism but there is an apathy. I sort of wonder how my children and grandchildren will see my images I save today and how I will look back on them. It's all digital now - even the modern film shots I scan I consider to be digital. Will I also be tired and apathetic? Or will I be like my own parents that love strolling down the memories and telling stories as if they are happening live, today!

05-25-2014, 10:32 PM   #2
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Interesting comments and story.

In my mother's family, we have a tradition of family book. This book is a kind of family tree with photographs and updated informations. It is edited every 1-2 years, with new born and past family members included and remembered respectively. It was started more than 30 years ago with a typewriter and 35 mm photographs and it continues nowadays with Word processing and digital photography. I see no difference in the process and it is in fact easier for the custodian (usually a family elder).

I am not the custodian, but I contribute every year to update the info of my family. I can see my own children interested to see the family book, with their names, those of cousins and relatives that they never net.

Off course, our family comes from the old continent and we is a tradition to track the family root as early as possibly, up to 450 years on one side of the family, 250 years on another side, 300 years for another branch....

Last edited by hcc; 05-25-2014 at 11:43 PM.
05-26-2014, 12:39 PM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by 6BQ5 Quote
They admit to destroying negatives and prints because they are remnants of an old life and they don't need it.
My grandfather served 2 tours as a navigator on a B-17 in WWII. He only told me one story. If you had an immediate family member who was wounded you could get a pass to go see them in the hospital. He had a cousin who was shot at Omaha Beach and transported back to the hospital in London. My grandfathers bomber group was flying out of England and my grandfather got a pass to go visit his cousin. At this point in the war they were running missions every day. A stand in navigator flew in my grandfather place while he was gone. His B-17 was shot down and the entire crew lost. He had a great memory, probably better than he really wanted when it came to things like this.

From the 1920's on the country went through the Great Depression, World War One and Two, Korea, & Vietnam. Depending on what part of the country they were in there were some droughts, famines, the Dust Bowl.

Often, the older people get, the less they want to talk about the "the good old days". Lots of friends and family members have been lost, and often they are the last one left to tell the story.

My great grandmother was married to a Civil War veteran. It was not uncommon for much older men to marry younger women, and that was the case. We were lucky in that she knew many of the Civil War veterans that were in the family pictures and since she didn't live through the Civil War she happy to talk about who was in the pictures and where they had been taken. We were lucky in that most of my family members who fought kept really good journals and wrote a lot of letters. My great grandmother would talk about the Civil War which she didn't actually live through, but she wouldn't talk about the Great Depression, which she did live through.

My grandparents had a neighbor who was a World War One veteran. He had no problem talking about WWI, but he was also the last known living member of the Night Riders which he refused to talk about. I know he was contacted several times by historians, but to my knowledge he never told his story, and I have never seen his name in any of the documentaries. Somethings people just want to forget.

I think if we live through a lot good times we will be more likely to talk about it than if we live through a lot of bad.
05-26-2014, 03:08 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by Winder Quote
Somethings people just want to forget.
This struck a chord with me. My father emigrated to Canada in 1929 when he was three years old, and the Great Depression here was much better than what his relatives were going through in Eastern Europe. My mother was born in Germany in the 1930's. In order to survive, people will do things that they take to their grave, and how can anyone who never had to deal with starvation, or a high probability of being blown up or arrested and shot, argue with that?
QuoteOriginally posted by 6BQ5 Quote
They admit to destroying negatives and prints because they are remnants of an old life and they don't need it
Over time the context and the people in those pictures becomes meaningless. I'm old enough to have the same experience with pictures from high school. It's not like I've forgotten what those years were like, but when you haven't seen most of the people in those pictures for 35 years, refreshing those memories doesn't have much meaning anymore. I started shooting slide film after I finished high school, and those are mostly pictures from trips I took (and my kids from infancy to teenage years) so as long as my Ektagraphic projector still works and I have 10-12 hours to spend by myself going down memory lane, I don't plan to throw those out. That's really the killer, no one has the time to reflect on the past, and even though we now have the capacity to record far more of the present then we could before, there is less motivation to actually review it.

05-26-2014, 03:21 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by 6BQ5 Quote
Or will I be like my own parents that love strolling down the memories and telling stories as if they are happening live, today!
Some people just have no interest in reflecting on their lives. Unless they had unhappy experiences, this is a shame, Instead of embracing all of the moments they lived, their lives shrink to the moment, I have had a happy life, and like you enjoy reflecting on the path one has travelled. It is one of the reasons I started the thread of showing pictures taken before 1990. One of the saddest things I saw, was a dilapidated photograph album in a second hand store. Was this what all our precious moments finally amount to?
05-26-2014, 03:36 PM   #6
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Arnold started a thread on old images and to which I subscribe and occasionally contribute. I enjoy the thread.
05-26-2014, 11:06 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by arnold Quote
One of the saddest things I saw, was a dilapidated photograph album in a second hand store. Was this what all our precious moments finally amount to?
I guess it depends on the life that we lead and how connected we are to our ancestors. Genealogy has always been important to my family. Its hard to understand how you got here unless you first look at where you came from. On one side of my family we can trace back to King John (John Lackland). I also come from a family of writers and we have journals that go back to the early 1800's. I guess to some, it is mundane stuff, but I find it interesting to read my great grandfathers recipe for chewing tobacco, moonshine, and soap. They wrote everything down for the next generation.

Just as many older people don't want to discuss the past, many of today's youth don't care enough to ask about it. We a couple of generations without a history or future. They just want to live in the now.
05-27-2014, 02:05 AM   #8
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The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.
William Faulkner

Ancestral home on my Father's side in Germany. Built in 1666 by my Family and still there and still owned by the family.
I lived there for three months over the summer for a couple of years. It's an old mill.


Last edited by wildman; 06-11-2014 at 05:00 AM.
05-27-2014, 11:39 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by wildman Quote
The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past.
William Faulkner
.
The good past is what people want to remember. Bad times people want to forget, the problem is that as a society, by forgetting the bad times, we also forget why they happened.

Human beings are supposed to be smart enough to learn from the past, and not repeat the same mistakes, but in reality we are no smarter than the apes, because we throw it all away, and every two generations we repeat the same stupid mistakes over and over again

Oh well......
05-28-2014, 07:13 PM   #10
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This year, I've started publishing family year books, I started with 2013, but I'll likely go back to 2007ish, when my first kid was born. My family and my wife's family love them and its a lot easier to look at the pictures in a book then on a computer. I get three printed, one for the family and one for each of the kids when they eventually start their own family.
05-31-2014, 11:02 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
by forgetting the bad times, we also forget [or at least try to] why they happened.
Sounds like the Republican party with respect to the Great Depression.
06-02-2014, 06:51 AM   #12
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My brother sent me a box of old b&w prints after my father died. My father used to convert the bathroom into a darkroom with a home-made enlarger and we developed a lot of those shots together. I think a lot about of the more memorable ones but I don't take the time to look through them - have an idea to digitize them someday but not right now.

We have been doing the annual "photobook" - mostly family events and travels - for the past several years and we look t them often. I think we could be a lot more creative about the way we make photobooks and I don't see that discussed anywhere - ours are fairly basic but still enjoyable.
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