Copyright 2013 Douglas Stockdale
I have found myself with another photo project in the early stages of development.
Background; I spend perhaps too much time collecting, reading and then writing about contemporary photobooks. One genre of photobooks that has been developing for some time are the artists books that are based on found snap-shots. This is a case in which the artist/photographer is not the person who actually created the photograph, but has found anonymous photographs, e.g. the snapshot, that are arranged and sequenced to create a semi-fictitious story (real photographs of real individuals, but the resulting narrative is fiction) . Since the found snapshot is missing its original context (the original family photo album, the owner), the singular snapshot takes on a separate life of its own.
I have been acquiring more of these snapshot photobooks, as they have a growing appeal to me, especially as I sense that these photobook are able to create interesting stories about memory and its preservation. And this has led to my thinking about my own past family memories.
To the present. So while cleaning the garage out over the past couple of weekends, I came across a couple of overstuffed cardboard boxes that has been haunting me for some time. I know that they are loaded with an odd collection of old family photographs. I now bet you can sense where this is going, eh?
Yep, I opened Pandora’s box and found amongst some recent family photographs, an interesting assortment of old picture albums with the fragile black pages brimming with old black and white photographs. The dates go back to the 1920’s with a smattering of older photographs, but the interesting aspect for me is that I can not identify most of the individuals, who are most certainly my own family, in these photographs. That was when I realized that this is an opportunity for me to create my own snapshot story. I do not any immediate family who can help me collaborate on any of the historical “facts” related to these photographs, thus this will become my fictional narrative of what might have occurred. Even as I do identify the family members in these photographs, I want to keep them ambiguous to the readers of this project, perhaps creating the photo album of memories for ever person.
When I found the wooden picture album that is featured in the above photograph featured in this post, probably purchased on a family vacation to the Southwest as a souvenir, I think I realized this album may provide the motif if not the actual cover that I will use for my artist book.
At the moment I have a couple of other projects that I want to bring to a close, so off and on during the summer I will start sorting the available photographs while determining what personal story that I want to investigate.
Doug, very interesting post. Not too long ago my mother passed away and before I left Detroit I bequeathed to myself and gathered all of her old photo albums (there are VOLUMES, some photo based on dress I am guessing are 1880 or 1890 vintage) . I have spent the past 6 months sorting and categorizing the photos. Like you I don’ t know the identity of many of the people in the oldest photos but fortunately, many years ago my mother gave each of us a documented family tree and a photo album with pictures of several of the “characters” in the old albums. There are enough pieces in the family tree photo album my mother gave me that I am beginning to be able to identify many of the people in all of the old photos I have.
My project with the photos is not nearly as grand as yours as my goal is to identify as many people as I can, scan the photos, and give each of my children, siblings and cousins an electronic file with this family history. (Maybe your post and project will motivate me to put together a small printed album for each).
Thanks for sharing, and interesting as usual.
Dave, as I work on this project, I hope to identify as many of the individuals as I can and I will provide that information off line to the rest of my family. Similiarily, my uncle worked on the family genelogy, so I do have many of the names but not matched to faces. What is helping at the moment is that my mom and sister liked to write notes on the back of the pictures when they were swapping between themselves.