Ernest and Rose Alma Alix with Elmer @1912
I have been the designated “keeper of all images” for both my family and Bill’s. I think this happened because of my background in photography, all things related just came into my house. I’ve rescued family photographs from trips to the dump in family moves. Boxes and boxes of photographs were brought to me when Bill’s grandfather died and we cleaned out his home of 60 plus years. And then there are all of the photographs from multiple generations of my family on both my mother’s and father’s side.
Over the years I’ve sorted and scanned most of them. They are in folders by families in chronological order. It sounds fussy but if you are a photographer you get it, especially one who enjoys the history of the craft. All of the photographs were sorted by type (ie. paper, process), then by clothing and known approximate dates. What I found was once I scanned them I had a much easier time putting them in order. You could look at a group of thumbnails and see how people changed, how they aged. Although I didn’t have exact dates for many of them you can see how the people moved through time. Being able to see a few photographs side by side also is invaluable when it comes to unknowns. If you have a family tree at your disposal it’s fairly easy to figure out who’s who. You become quite intimate with the people in your family who are no longer with you. You can make up stories in your head about them from the snippets of things you heard growing up and the way they look in the images you have. You begin to build your story.
The photograph shown here is one of my favorites. The little boy is my paternal grandfather with his parents. I love how much he looks like his mother, how he leans into her with her arm around him, hand on his shoulder. The beauty of scanning your photographs is the capability to look at the details closely. Her hand is the hand of someone who used them hard. Life in the early 1900’s was not easy for a farmer’s wife. They were not well off by any stretch and I know how hard she worked from the stories. I love that they are wearing their Sunday best. It’s nice to see that their clothes aren’t threadbare like so many other relatives photos show.
The Alixes put great importance on being photographed. I have boxes of studio photographs from generation after generation. These were all taken by people who really didn’t have a lot of money, but it was important to them. There aren’t a lot of candid shots. I believe someone may have had a box Brownie around the late 1920’s and you see a little more of their day to day life. Another way of getting the flavor of what their lives were about.
The Alix photographs are what I grew up with. I would sit with my grandmother going through the box and she would tell me who people were, where they were, what they were doing. They are seared into my memory. For the past few days I’ve been thinking about a particular photograph that I want to write about and for the life of me I can not find it. I have a gap in my digital files that are all of my father growing up. There are probably over 50 photographs. I can see them all in my mind but I can’t put my hands on them – digital or original. It’s driving me crazy.
In my mind I thought I was magnificently organized when it came to this and I’ve found that there’s a gaping hole. I’ve searched box after box in the last day to no avail. They’re around somewhere, I just haven’t located the spot. So I will continue to search and as I’m looking I will be thinking of all of those stories that surround those images – should be good fodder for future posts.