The brief for this exercise is to look through my own family archive to discover a series of four or five portraits that have never been placed together before. The portraits may be of individuals or maybe couples, they may span generations or just be of the same person throughout the years. There must be a reason for my choices and I must explain what message I am trying to articulate. Is there anything that links the images together? The location perhaps? or the dates or the activity?
I have hundreds of black and white images that I have been meaning, for ever, to put in an album. You can see my attempt on the left, above, but sadly, most of the album is just holding loose images captured between the pages, waiting for me to stick them in. I don’t actually think I will now though; the idea of an album compliments the era of the images but it feels a little outdated. I will scan them instead but that is a project for another day. Here are my archives in their entirety:
My late dad took most of the images in the 1960s and being the organised man he was they are all conveniently dated in the bottom right hand corner. I have organised them by date on a make shift table, above. First of all I looked for images that were meant to be seen together and came across a definite ‘set’, see below, of my dad, my elder sister and my mum.
The brief however is to choose just four or five images, within the archives, that have never been placed together before. I immediately thought of ‘loss’ as many of the people in the photographs are my close family and are not with us anymore; two of whom died far too young.
Goodbye Mum, Grandad, Nanna, Cousin Lesley, Nan and Dad
Loved and lost
My relatively large collection of old photographs dates from around 1935 to 1967; a period of more than thirty years. All the images are all black and white and mainly amateur snapshots; a few have been taken in a studio. They are kept in roughly chronological order as most of them have my father’s handwritten date in the corner. They are all loose and not in albums or frames. Apart from the last couple of years, that include images of me as a baby, they were mainly taken before I was born.
Many of these hundreds of images are of my parents and grandparents before I knew them; my mum as a teenager and a new wife and mother to my elder sister. My grandma as a younger woman. My granddad who died before I was born. Houses I never lived in and holidays they had without me. A few thoughts crossed my mind about these images regarding a possible series: there are generations of babies that could be grouped together, family holidays and weddings over the generations. There are caravans, cars, houses, gardens and clothes; all reminiscent of happy times in the past and all nostalgic.
Then I thought about what these photographs were really all about and why I have kept them all these years. All the people that I have loved and lost are here and I felt that I wanted to bring all this loss together in one place in order to contain it somehow. So, my chosen five images are linked by the fact that these people are no longer with us. I like to think that they do still have presence though as there is a permanent representation of their physical identity in the images, and there are memories.
When these hundreds of images were taken they were mainly happy snapshots of weddings and new babies, seaside holidays and family days out. At no time do I expect that my father (the man behind the camera on most occasions) ever thought he was taking them as a record for his daughter (that wasn’t even born yet) to treasure in her keepsake box as a memory of all the family she had lost.
My chosen five images were taken in the 1960s; specifically between 1960 and 1967 which provides another link between the photographs. They are also all black and white and of the same family. Together with the fact that all the subjects are deceased now, I hope I have shown how a collection of snapshots can be viewed in a way that they were never intended to be viewed and how they have ‘added value’ in that respect, and are as valuable to me today as they were at the time they were taken.