Vacation 1953

While sorting through some old photos yesterday, I came across a group of faded black and white 3×3 snapshots. They were photos I didn’t recall seeing before. I decided that they must had belonged to my aunt Imogene. I’m not certain how I ended up with them but they were tucked into an envelope with other, unrelated family photos.

Except for one, their reverse sides were blank. But on that one, in my aunt Imogene’s handwriting was the note: 1953 Vacation going to Bandon, Or., pictures taken at Colo. Springs Colo.  That was it.

The group passed through Dodge City, apparently, where they visited the legendary Boot Hill.

I looked more closely. I recognized my aunts Lavetta, Oleta and her husband, Joe, Imogene and her husband, Jim, and my uncle Austin.  In 1953, they would have been in their 30s and late 20s. Uncle Austin might have just been back from the Korean War, as was my Uncle Joe who had already served in World War II. I am not certain that my aunt Lavetta was married yet. Were they traveling out to attend my aunt Phyllis’ wedding in Bandon, I wondered? Bandon was where my Grandma had moved after leaving Missouri where all her children were born and grew up.

Where did they stop for this picnic? Was it lunch or dinner? Why the ketchup bottle?

How special to look back at the aunts and uncles I knew and loved. They were so young, so unaware of what was yet to come in life, having so much fun in these photos. The photos of them picnicking especially drew me in.  They sat together lunching, I’d guess, at a tablecloth-covered picnic table, drinking bottles of Coca-Cola and eating fried chicken. If they were travelling, the chicken was probably cold. A bottle of ketchup stood square in the middle of table. Did they have french fries too? I would have guessed that had potato salad but ketchup didn’t fit.

After the picnic, they took time to relax before hitting the road or at the end of their day?

I love looking at my aunts dressed in their short-sleeved cotton camp shirts tucked neatly into Capri pants. And I studied the shoes that they had kicked off to relax on a blanket that had been tossed on the grass after the picnic. They seemed in no hurry to get to their Oregon destination in these pictures.

Before boarding the funicular to ride to the top for a view of the Royal Gorge, my aunts and uncle stop for a photo.

They took time to go up the funicular at the Royal Gorge, or so it appears from one of the photos.  It looks as if they stopped at the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve, a 35,000-acre preserve in South Dakota where the photo of their backsides was made as they stood reading the preserve’s marker. Maybe that’s where the photo of the two married couples on the trip standing in an otherwise nondescript country was taken.

The small portion of the sign on the wall told me that my aunts and uncles had stopped at the Norbeck Wildlife Preserve on their drive to Bandon.

I studied the photos, trying to glean a story about their trip from them. As I did, I thought of my mother who, after retiring, spent a good portion of her time putting our family’s photos into albums and labelling many of them. It made me think why it is we take photos such as these on our various travels and what they bring and tell us when, years afterwards, we go back to look and remember those sojourns. In this case, I had only the photos from which to construct a story. How I would have liked to have asked them questions about that trip had I known about it before finding these visual memories.

Where was this taken? There’s no clue to tell me. But I laughed at the matching pants worn by my aunts.

My aunt’s photos made me think of my own travel photos and why I take photographs when I travel. Will my photos one day be discovered for someone else to enjoy, to relive the moment I did, to wonder how I felt, where I was going, what I did? More than just a testament that ‘I was there’, photographs like these found on a rainy Saturday  can take you back in time, can cause you to revisit the day, to remember the people you love, the places they went and the fun they shared.

Years Later, First Day Brings Smiles and Tears

Students at Western Washington University and Whatcom Community College started classes this week for the fall quarter. Those who live in the WWU dorms arrived last weekend and moved in creating the usual traffic jam for the neighborhood as a steady stream of cars pulled into the surrounding campus parking lots. I always enjoy seeing the students return. My studio and home are located right off the WWU campus so I often stroll through the campus to take in the first day excitement. First year students usually show up with their parents, their arms loaded with all the belongings and necessities they’ve brought from home for their dorm room.  They are all smiles as they pull into the parking lots but by the time they say goodbye, there are usually a few tears as their son or daughter stays behind to begin to their college career.

Clutching his lunch bag, my son is ready to leave for his first day of school.
Clutching his lunch bag, my son is ready to leave for his first day of school.

It brings to mind my own experience of seeing our sons off on their first day of school.  And yes, I’ll admit tears sometimes well up in my eyes when I think about those wonderful times.  That happened recently when I was sorting through some of my old snapshots to place them in an album.  In the one of the negative envelopes were the priceless prints of my oldest son, taken on his very first day of kindergarten at Calahan Elementary School in Los Angeles.  He looked so small.  I had forgotten about those pictures but when I came across them was grateful that I had started then the tradition of taking a photograph of my sons on their first day of school.

Outside Calahan Elementary School on my son's first day of kindergarten. He looked so small.
Outside Calahan Elementary School on my son’s first day of kindergarten.

I remember taking his little hand in mind, his other hand clutching his lunch, as we walked through the playground gate towards the open kindergarten door. Other parents and their kids were already inside the classroom, introducing themselves to the attractive, young teacher named Melinda, and helping their kindergartener pick and settle into a place to sit.  There was an air of anticipation as the kids looked tentatively around the room at those who were to be their classmates,not only for kindergarten but for another six years. We knew only one little girl who had been in my son’s Mommy and Me class two years earlier.

My son was looking forward to kindergarten.  He had already attended two years of pre-school and needed new challenges. But I could tell that he wasn’t quite sure, as I bid him good-bye, if he was up to this. And I wasn’t certain that I was either.

My son takes a seat at his kindergarten desk and waits for class to start.
My son takes a seat at his kindergarten desk and waits for class to start.

The first time’s always the hardest, I kept telling myself, as I hugged him good-bye and made myself step out the door. I looked back from across the playground to see him sitting inside the classroom at the desk. The teacher was already attempting to take control of the class and make the kids feel welcome.  My son looked as if he was paying close attention. How I wished I could have stayed as a tiny observer for just that day.

Kindergartners, my son among them, parade out the classroom and across the playground at the end of their first day.
Calahan’s kindergarteners, my son among them, parade out the classroom and across the playground at the end of their first day.

That was a long day for me as I waited for the hours to pass until I could return to the school and pick him up. When I did, I had my camera with me and caught the kids on film as the teacher’s aide led them together out the door, across the kindergarten playground to the gate where parents, like myself, were patiently lined up to retrieve their kindergartener. It was an odd feeling, knowing that this would be the pattern for the next several years. And one, after that first day that I really didn’t think about as much until it came time for my son to leave for college.

The truck almost loaded on the day my son left for college.
The truck almost loaded on the day my son left for college.

Once again, I was saying good-bye but this time, I wouldn’t be the one to go with him as my husband was driving the loaded truck with my son while I stayed behind with our other two sons. And yes, I was teary-eyed as I hugged him when the last box had been put into the truck and the rear door pulled down and locked into place. I stood there at the end of the walk and sadly watched as they slowly drove away from the house. I have pictures from that day too and am glad I do.  Now, as I watch the students and their parents go through this same ritual each fall at the university next door, a smile comes to my face and a tear to my eye. And sometimes, as I did this year, I go home, pull out the photos of my own sons first day at school and remember.

WIth one last pet to our cat and a hug to me, my son headed off to college.
WIth one last pet to our cat and a hug to me, my son headed off to college.

 

A Snap in Time

A friend of mine is in the process of downsizing from her big two-story house where she raised her family to a smaller place. She’s sorting through all the things that she neatly stored away in her attic. Drawings her sons made in grade school, letters from old friends, newspaper clippings about family milestones and lots of other mementos that she intended to one day pass on to her sons or future grandchildren. She sadly confessed to me the other day that she simply will not have the space to put everything in her new home. And that, she told me, includes all the boxes of photographs collected from over the years and taken of her kids, family and friends.

She’s now trying to figure out exactly what to do with them all. It’s a dilemma many of us have faced at one time or another in our lives. I suppose it’s a fair assumption to say that it’s less likely to be a problem for those who began snapping photos after the advent of digital photography. (The accumulation of digital photos presents its own sort of new problems. Maybe a topic for a future blog.) She’s considering tossing them after scanning and saving the prints to CDs, flash cards or external hard drives which would take up less space. But that is not a foolproof solution for storing and preserving your precious family photographs and snapshots. Those systems can fail too and in a single instant all your visual memories disappear. Forever.

This snapshot is taken from my Dad's family albums and shows him and some of his siblings enjoying a slice of watermelon. If you look carefully, you can see two men in the background the identities of whom I'm uncertain.
This snapshot is taken from my Dad’s family albums and shows him and some of his siblings enjoying a slice of watermelon. If you look carefully, you can see two men in the background the identities of whom I’m uncertain.

When that happens, and I’m sure nearly everyone these days knows someone who has “lost” their pictures or documents to a digital disaster, not only have your memories, once so well-preserved on paper, vanished, so has very important information that could serve generations to come.  The tradition of the ‘snapshot’ has been around since the first Kodak cameras in 1888 popularized and made more affordable to everyone the hobby of photography. People became entranced with taking pictures of one another in all sorts of situations–on vacations, family outings, celebrations, in their homes, businesses, churches and farms–doing all sorts of things.

The great American pasttime of baseball being played by my uncles as children on their family farm. An unknown photographer captured my uncle Buck's wind-up just as he was about to toss the ball to his younger brother, James.
The great American past time of baseball being played by my uncles as children on their family farm. An unknown photographer captured my uncle Buck’s wind-up just as he was about to toss the ball to his younger brother, James.

Those snapshots are often passed on to the next generation.  I myself have boxes of personal snapshots recently received from my parents’ home after my Dad died last spring. I now have the task of looking through them all, which I did frequently during my last visits to my parents’ home, deciding which to scan and then determining to whom the original prints should be handed. At the same time, I’m learning things about my family that I never knew, had forgotten or didn’t remember correctly.

This snapshot of my mother, brother and I on the porch where our refrigerator loaded with Coca-Cola brings back warm memories of my childhood home.
This snapshot of my mother, brother and I on the porch where our refrigerator loaded with Coca-Cola brings back warm memories of my childhood home.

The snapshot plays an important part of American culture. Unlike any other time in history, we can glimpse back into the past two hundred fifty years by looking at an actual photograph taken at that time.  Since the early 1900s, many of those photographs are ‘snapshots’ recorded by amateur photographers wanting to remember the day and to share it with their family and friends. From these everyday pictures stored away in photo albums, in shoeboxes, in slide trays or the like, we can learn what life was like for our family, what was important to them, what they wore, whom they loved, how they enjoyed their time together, where they went and what they saw.  In short, through these images, we can peer into their lives as preserved so well on paper in black and white and later, color. They can make us happy or a bit sad, cause us to reminisce or sometimes bring pain, solve mysteries or begin one. All this, from just a few inches of photographic paper. I find this pretty remarkable.

Mmy Grandmother's face is peeking out from the bush like a flower in this snapshot but I don't know the circumstnaces behind it. A mystery!.
My Grandmother’s face is peeking out from the bush like a flower in this snapshot but I don’t know the circumstances behind it. A mystery!.

I was reminded of the inestimable worth of the common snapshot when reading a recent article by Jon Feinstein on the Humble Arts Foundation blog. Feinstein was writing about Seattle-based Robert E. Jackson, a serious collector of American snapshots.  Some of Jackson’s more than 11,000 snapshots have been exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and at galleries in New York City, Los Angeles and Texas. Jackson is interested in the aesthetic and ‘unintentional’ artistic qualities found in snapshots rather than the historic aspects. Yet another reason why snapshots hold value and significance for people.

This snapshot of my mother, probably in her early 20s, performing a handstand for the camera is one of my personal favorites.
This snapshot of my mother, probably in her early 20s, performing a handstand for the camera is one of my personal favorites.

While your own, or my friend’s or my family snapshots may never be displayed at a gallery, they may be displayed in your home, on digital frames, in albums or on your walls. Even if you, like my friend, choose to scan and digitize your photos, be sure to hang on to the original prints. If you no longer have the space to keep them or don’t want to keep them all, select the ones most meaningful to you or your family to save so that future generations, who may not have access to your digital files, will have clues to who you were and the time you lived. For those that you decide not to keep, perhaps others in your family may want them. Or box them up and offer them to collectors such as Jackson or even your local museums or libraries who may want to add some or all of them to their collections or archives.

The snapshot continues to evolve with the emergence of new technology but one thing is for certain, it is here to stay.

You can read more about the impact that the snapshot has had on our society in a recent Smithsonian magazine article: The Invention of the ‘Snapshot’ Changed the Way We Viewed the World by Clive Thompson.

Picturing Dad

This Father’s Day will be very different for me. It will be the first year without my father who died at age 94 just two months ago after a long, happy and fruitful life.  I read what I had written for this blog last year at this time.  I’m now very glad I wrote what I did, when I did so that he could read it too.  We sometimes forget, or just don’t take time, to tell those who matter most to us in our lives exactly how we feel about them.  You can read or re-read what I wrote about my Dad last year by clicking on this link:https://cherylcrooksphotography.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/celebrating-dad/ . It will take you there.

This Father’s Day I have a room full of boxes of albums, loose and framed photos, home movies and slides that one of my brother’s hauled out from Kansas to me just this past week.  My father, in written instructions, appointed me in charge of sorting through and dividing up the family’s photo archives. And when you’re a photographer’s daughter, that’s a huge responsibility. Fortunately, my mother, also now deceased, had gone through many of their personal photographs years ago. She thoughtfully separated many of them into boxes, each carefully labeled with my and my brothers’ names.  She placed many into photo albums according to date. When,due to her dementia, she became too disabled to do more, I took over the job.

Sometimes your fondest memories of your Dad are of the everyday jobs.  This photo of my father, taken just this past March, was one of the last I made of him at his home.  He loved to ride his lawn mower and spent nearly an hour on it that day. I'm so very glad now that I stopped to catch him in this photo.
Sometimes your fondest memories of your Dad are of the everyday jobs. This photo of my father, taken just this past March, was one of the last I made of him at his home. He loved to ride his lawn mower and spent nearly an hour on it that day. I’m so very glad now that I stopped to catch him in this photo.

During my trips to visit my parents in recent years, I spent many late nights, after they had both gone to bed, sitting in front of the television, organizing and sliding photos into albums. Instead of putting them into chronological order, I categorized the albums into subject matter. This is something I had done with my own family’s photos.  I often can’t remember exactly what year I took the trip or when a particular event, other than a life milestone, may have happened.  I have divided and placed my photos into an album of the same subject. I can more easily find or reference it without having to go through several albums or yes, even those shoebox-size storage cartons.

I did the same for my parents.  There’s an album devoted to my mother’s family reunions, another of my Dad’s Army reunions and some with just photos from their more recent vacations.  I made a couple containing photos of just my own family taken during visits with each other and of other photos I had sent to them to keep them updated on my family’s activities and growth.  Still another album is of my Dad’s photography career and includes clippings from the newspaper as well as other mementos from his portrait studio.  We took that album, as well as the one I had assembled about his military service, to the funeral home so that those who came could look through it.  Many did.

From my parents' vacation album comes this photo of myself with them and two of my sons taken during our cruise together to Alaska.
From my parents’ vacation album comes this photo of myself with them and two of my sons taken during our cruise together to Alaska.

It’s now a popular choice to make printed books of one’s digital photos. I’ve done it myself.  In fact, I offer “Memory Books” and “Signature Albums” to both my high school senior and family clients.  It’s been a very well received product among my studio clients.  But I still make individual prints of my personal family ‘snapshots’ and I encourage others to do the same. I don’t sell digital images to my professional clients, except for business purposes.  I know many professional photographers do, but I personally regard it as a disservice to my clients.  Computer manufacturers are turning out both desk and laptop machines today that have no CD drives.

I have stored away three and five-inch floppy drives of articles, written during my career as a journalist, on a word processing program that no longer exists, on a computer operating system that no longer exists, on a computer that no longer exists.  If I hadn’t had the foresight to print out ‘hard’ copies of all those articles, I’d have no record, (other than the on-line versions) of my many contributions to the world of journalism.

Another photo from one of my parents' albums recalls a visit with his three grandsons to the place where he had grown up. There wasn't anything left of his childhood farmhouse except part of the home's rock wall. But we have it now preserved in this precious photograph.
Another photo from one of my parents’ albums recalls a visit with his three grandsons to the place where he had grown up. There wasn’t anything left of his childhood farmhouse except part of the home’s rock wall. But we have it now preserved in this precious photograph.

It’s the same with my own photographs, for both my professional and personal work.   I advise making prints of any photo that has any significant personal value to you, another reason my studio sells prints instead of digital images. I know, there’s always the ‘Cloud’.  But it wasn’t always there, nor is there any guarantee that it will always be there or in its present day form. Or that the access you have now will be same. Think of  how many times people have told you that  their computers ‘crashed’ and that they lost all their photos stored on it. (You must back-up your digital photos onto an external drive, on-line storage or even CD.)

This simple photo of my Dad, made in 2010, is one of my favorites. I took it at his home while visiting there one day when he went out to check his mailbox.
This simple photo of my Dad, made in 2010, is one of my favorites. I took it at his home while visiting there one day when he went out to check his mailbox.

To have an album full of  photos  is a treasure. I realize how much of a treasure it truly is since my father’s passing. I don’t have him this Father’s Day to wish him a happy day, or to tell him how much I love him and how much I appreciate all that he has done for me through the years.  But I can look back, turn through the pages of those albums that I now must sort through and remember the times growing up, doing things together, celebrating holidays, taking vacations, visiting relatives, sharing meals or just living everyday life.  All those priceless memories captured forever in a photo.  Thanks, Dad.

Preserve and Protect Your Holiday Photos

One day this past week, I pulled out the drawer where I keep our family videos of Christmases past.  I shoved one into the VCR (fortunately we have a VCR drive on our DVD machine) and turned it on. The one I chose to watch was nearly 20 years ago. It was in remarkably good condition. My sons were small and full of glee over the holiday preparations.

Photos of my sons when they were small at Christmas are among my most precious photos.  Shown here with their Grandmother, I can only imagine the sticky hands they had after gtnawing on those candy canes.
Photos of my sons when they were small at Christmas are among my most precious photos. Shown here with their Grandmother, I can only imagine the sticky hands they had after gnawing on those candy canes.

My parents visited my family that year and I have video of them handing out the gifts they had packed into their suitcase to three excited little boys.  My mother-in-law, who was still living then, was there too at our caroling party cuddling my youngest in her arms. And my cousin’s son, who was like a big brother to my sons and who is no longer living, made an appearance to help my husband set up the toy train.  I was more captivated by our homemade video than any movie I’ve seen all year. I’ll bet many of you are taking photos and videos of your family and this year’s holiday festivities. Recording these visual memories takes many forms these days,–with cameras, phones, tablets or who knows what else.  I still chuckle whenever I see someone holding up a tablet to capture an image. But I must confess, the quality of some of these devices is pretty amazing. However, what happens to all those pictures and videos once they have been stored on the device’s memory card? Is  your memory  permanent or does it become lost somewhere in your personal cyberspace? Will anyone else years from now be able to retrieve it should they want to see how your family celebrated the holidays?

My family gathered at the long table in my aunt and uncle's basement to have our Christmas dinner together.
My family gathered at the long table in my aunt and uncle’s basement to have our Christmas dinner together.

The practice of taking ‘snapshots’ came into popularity during the early 1900s when Kodak introduced its first Brownie camera which sold for $1.  A roll of film was 15 cents. For the first time, according to Kodak history, “the hobby of photography was within the financial reach of virtually everyone.” As wages rose during the 1920s, snapshot photography became more and more part of American daily life.  Smaller cameras and better film allowed people to capture a life that was full of motion.   By the 1950s,  snapshots became even easier to take when Kodak’s first plastic Brownie camera came onto the market. These were even smaller versions of Kodak’s original box cameras and far easier to tote along to parties, on vacations or to keep handy around the house.

My first camera was a Brownie like this one.  The Brownie made holiday picture-taking easy.
My first camera was a Brownie like this one. The Brownie made holiday picture-taking easy.

The Brownie Bullet was a cube-shaped camera made of molded Bakelite plastic with a simple lens and shutter release whose dimensions were just a little larger than the 127 sized roll film loaded inside. This was my very first camera. Mine was the Brownie Holiday model. I still have it and all of the nearly square format black and white snapshots that I took with it. My earliest photos are now stored in what preceded today’s ‘memory card’–a photo album. I can pull it off the shelf, turn through the pages and re-live those days of my childhood through the photos affixed there to the page with little black paper corners.

One of my earliest photos, probably taken with my Brownie Starflash camera, was of my Dad carving the turkey at the holiday dinner.
One of my earliest photos, probably taken with my Brownie Starflash camera, was of my Dad carving the turkey at the holiday dinner.

Fast forward to today. Film has almost disappeared although some is still available. Cameras have taken new forms, some not even resembling a ‘traditional’ camera. Photo albums are rapidly being replaced by on-line versions where thousands of images can be simply dumped or neatly arranged and viewed on TVs, computer screens, phones or whatever. But in 20, 30, 40 years and beyond, will you, your progeny or historians be able to access these images so that you or they can get a glimpse of how we lived our lives and celebrated holidays together? It’s a question that I constantly ask myself and my studio clients. I suggest to all my friends and professional clients that they make prints of their personal pictures, especially the ones that they love the most. I also strongly urge everyone to download your images onto a back-up external hard drive and/or CD. Since starting to shoot digitally, I make two copies of both my personal and professional images on archival quality CDs. Of course, CDs no longer guarantee that you’ll have access to them in the future. Some Apple computer products, for example,  no longer come with CD drives.

This  shapshot of my parents with my aunts and uncles opening their Christmas was taken in the late 1940s and offers a priceless glimpse into my family's holiday celebration 'pre-me'.
This snapshot of my parents with my aunts and uncles opening their Christmas gifts was taken in the late 1940s and offers a priceless glimpse into my family’s holiday celebration ‘pre-me’.

At least with printed copies of your pictures you’ll have them later. I have never understood professional photographers, or amateur ones for that matter, who leave their images only in digital format. I have never sold my professional images only in that format, even though I’ve had plenty of requests to do so, because I think it’s a disservice to both my client and my work. It’s the same for your personal snapshots and your videos as well. In some ways, it’s even more important that you make prints of those images captured during the holidays and at other special times of the year because only you have them. They’re your personal memories recorded to recall visually the wonderful times you shared with family and friends.

My New Year’s wish is for you to preserve and protect your personal photos and videos. Please, make a resolution to print those images as well as download them. Put them in an album or shoe box or wherever it is you like to keep your most valuable documents so that years from now you too can look back and fondly remember these holidays.

Saving the Family Photos

Like many people, I’ve been watching the media coverage of the ongoing clean up and recovery efforts in Moore, Okla. and the other communities which were devastated by the tornado that ripped through the middle of country one month ago.  As reporters spoke with those digging through the rubble that was once their homes, I was struck by a common theme.  Although they were searching for anything that could be salvaged, the one item they all said they hoped to find was family photographs.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and Mississippi, residents there too lost  family photos in the flooding along with everything else.  Unfortunately, among those who lost everything were many professional photographers who otherwise would have archived images of weddings, family groups, baby portraits, class reunions and life’s  events. Without those archival files, none of the photos could be replaced.

Even famiy vacation snapshots are priceless when a natural disaster hits. Our photo memories of those fun times often can't be replaced if destroyed.
Even famiy vacation snapshots are priceless when a natural disaster hits. Our photo memories of those fun times often can’t be replaced if destroyed.

A family’s photographs, whether snapshots, an old family album of one’s ancestors, wedding pictures or the family portrait that a professional photographer created, are one of the few things that often can not be replaced when a disaster hits.  You can’t always predict exactly when or where a natural disaster will strike, but here are some suggestions and precautions to lessen the chances of losing your precious photographic memories.

1) Make two CDs of your images whenever you download them from your camera. This is a common practice among professional photographers, who also go one step further and use archival CDs on which to store their recorded images.  Ideally, the two CDs should be stored in two separate locations.

2) Likewise, for film images. Store your negative files and prints in separate locations.

In 1994, a major earthquake rocked Los Angeles.  My sons, shown here with the next day's newspaper headline, helped me load our family albums into the car.
In 1994, a major earthquake rocked Los Angeles. My sons, shown here with the next day’s newspaper headline, helped me load our family albums into the car.

3) Keep personal family photo albums in one place in the home so that you can quickly grab them should you need to evacuate.  When still living in Los Angeles, I kept my personal albums together in one closet.  When the 1994 Northridge earthquake shook our house and the resulting pipeline fire nearby appeared to threaten our neighborhood, I grabbed the albums between aftershocks and loaded them into the back of our car.  In that same closet were the negatives of  the portraits of my family that hung throughout the house. I pulled those storage boxes off the shelf as well and packed them into the car.  Fortunately, in our case, evacuation wasn’t necessary but I was ready to go with the family memories if it had been.

4) If you live in where tornadoes occur, move your family albums to basement temporarily during tornado season.  You won’t want to leave them there permanently unless the basement is climate controlled because excessive humidity or heat can damage your photos, negatives or slides.

Scan your heirloom family portraits because they are impossible to replace once gone.
Scan your heirloom family portraits because they are impossible to replace once gone.

5) Store your digital images on a secure on-line storage site. There are costs associated with this storage space but it may be an option for some of your most important images.

6)  Provide family members who live elsewhere with copies of your most beloved photos.  While you may not want to duplicate every photo you have there are undoubtedly some that hold more meaning for you than others that you might want to share with your family.

7) Scan your oldest, heirloom photos, if you are lucky enough to have them, so that you will have a duplicate in case you lose the original. 

Professional wedding pictures can often be replaced because professional photographers archive the original negatives or digital files.  And yes, that's me in the center.
Professional wedding pictures can often be replaced because professional photographers archive the original negatives or digital files. And yes, that’s me in the center.

8) Established professional photographers retain both the original and finished images of their work so that you should lose your wedding or family portraits in a natural disaster you can have them replaced, unless of course their own studio is also destroyed.

9) Lastly but not least, make prints of those digital images that hold the greatest meaning for you.  With the advent of digital imagery, many people no longer make ‘hard copies’ in the form of prints, preferring instead to store the images on their computers, external hard drives, phones or CDs.  But for the images you love the most, I highly recommend making prints of them. I do this myself for all my personal family photos because should something ever happen to my computer or the CDs on which they are stored, I will still have my pictures.

As I tell my portrait clients who ask for digital images only, I have stored away files of articles written when I worked as a journalist for TIME and other publications. They were recorded on 5-inch floppy disks, on a program that no longer exists, on an operating system that no longer exists, on a computer that no longer exists. But I have ‘hard’ printed copies of everything I wrote so I still have access to that material. You would be well-advised to do the same with your personal family photographs.

I hope these suggestions will help preserve the visual memories of your childhood and family should a disaster ever befall you. Most of all, I hope should you ever be caught in a natural disaster that you and your family will  be safe. Those lives are most precious than any possession or photograph and certainly can never be replaced.