I’ve been scanning and “restoring” quite a few old family pictures recently that were sent by a second cousin of mine in Colorado. Some pictures are of good quality, obviously taken by a professional. But, as is the case with most families, the majority of pictures were taken by family members. These are often of poorer quality with problems including being out of focus, camera movement blur, people too far away from the camera, not enough light, and other problems. It’s a bit disappointing to know that a group shot of relatives I’ve never met could have been better made at the time. However, I’m also very grateful to the photographer for having taken these pictures at all and, sometimes, having made duplicate prints to give to family members. If it weren’t for these, I wouldn’t have known what these relatives looked like. A bad photo from the past is much better than no photo at all.
Which brings us to the present. They say the best camera is the one you have with you. Perhaps an iPhone doesn’t take as high-quality photos as a digital SLR, but if that’s all that you have with you, then it’s the best one for the moment. My daughter-in-law shares many photos of our grandson by email. I’m so thankful for these snapshots sent every few days. They may occasionally be dark, blurry, or funny-colored, but I still get to see what our grandson is doing. I’d much rather receive iPhone pictures often than professional or studio pictures rarely! Besides, even if the quality isn’t equal to a professionally made photograph, she’ll often catch a special smile or expression that is priceless! I’ll take that any day.
The picture at the top of this post was in this collection of photographs from my second cousin in Colorado. It shows my mother with her aunt and uncle plus two cousins and the wife of one of the cousins. All these relatives were visiting from out of state and are posing on our driveway. My dad not only took the picture but also printed it at home. He and my mom used the kitchen as a darkroom occasionally. The print is a bit grainy – probably the cheaper paper my dad would have used – and the back is labeled in my mother’s distinctive handwriting and turquoise-colored ink. Although I’ve long known that the quality of the prints my dad made could have been better, at least he made them. They often printed multiple copies for other family members, too. I’m sure this print was sent to Colorado relatives in the 60’s and it has now made it back to California for me to scan. I love that!
I’ve been thinking how some families were into snapping pictures and sharing and others weren’t. In a collection of miscellaneous photographs from this branch, there are one or two families that seems to pop up in the pictures more than others. Some years they used a family group shot to create their Christmas greeting. They obviously took pictures of their kids regularly, but not only that, they shared prints with more distant family members. If they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have seen these pictures and would have hardly known these people existed. I’ve never met most of them, but would like to do so someday.
The moral of all this? Take pictures of your family, your kids, your experiences, everything that interests you. Then share them with others, whether online, in emails, Facebook, whatever. Don’t forget to make prints of some of the most important pictures, too. Who knows what will happen to online content 30, 50, or 100 years from now. A photographic print may have a better chance of surviving than your pictures stored on someone else’s server.
Snap and share!