A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Bachelor's Buttons, Family Albums & The Battle Of Shiloh
Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I read this article in the Vancouver Sun on Monday which began as follows:

Memories in the digital age
Photo albums are becoming a thing of the past
Kim Gray, Canwest News Service
Published: Monday, October 20, 2008

On the topic of family photo albums and after the topic of family photo albums and after the birth of her second child, one woman said it best. "I don't know what I should do," lamented the sleep-deprived mom, only half joking. "Should I create another beautiful album for my second child, or just throw out the one I made for my first born?"

The article hit home even though I have been affected less by the digital age (I still shoot film) but more so by the concept of not having enough time. Both our daughters have their individual photo albums (very large and handsomel, custom bound in Mexican leather) which began with their birth in Mexico City in 1968 and 1971 and and petered out (lots of blank black pages left) sometime in the beginning of the 80s. I consolidated both Rosemary and my family album into one but it also ends at the same time as Ale and Hilary's. Since then I have put pictures in boxes but I have kept the negatives and their corresponding contact sheets in my files under FAMILY. Some of the better photographs of my daughters and of my granddaughters have found their way into large prints in nice frames hanging in our home. In most cases I make double copies of the framed ones that are on our own walls.

The Vancouver Sun article mentions that grandparents have the time to continue family albums. This is partially true. The white writing (with a white ink fountain pen) in the Mexico section of our family albums was done by my mother until she died. As a photographer I am much too busy trying to make ends meet to find the time to be on a cruise ship with Rosemary and to organize the family albums. That will not happen and it is a shame.

It is less of shame when I consider that the concept of a family album has always spanned at the most three generations. After I die most of the pictures of my grandparents and their relatives will mean nothing to my grandchildren. They will mean no more, and probably much less than the face of a Union soldier staring out of a Matthew Brady photograph taken at the battlefield of Shiloh. That is the way it is and more so when I reflect on the content of Julian Barnes's nothing to be frightened of. Attempting to assure some sort of posterity is a false sense of immortality.

I don't believe in the false one or the possible real one. But I enjoy looking at the first picture of Ale with my granddaughter Lauren which I took a couple of weeks ago in Lillooet. The blue Bachelor's Buttons grew from seeds that Rosemary gave to Ale. Looking at Ale with the little blond Lauren made me go to search not only in the family albums but also in the large loose photo box. It was in the latter that I found a print taken with a Polaroid SX-70 camera in 1975 when Hilary, the little blond girl was as old as Lauren is now in the above first picture with Ale who is now 40. The third picture is of my daughters taken at about the same time at Queen Elizabeth Park.


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