Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thoughts on the Creators of Photo-Albums


If you have been following this blog, you know that I create, produce and sell greeting cards for all occasions that are about more than communication. Many of these works are based on my original prints and all of these items can be viewed on my web-site where purchase information is available. Perhaps my inclination to  design cards comes from my mother, who for the first nine years of my life designed our family's Christmas cards beginning with the one of yours truly posted above this entry.

The cards she designed are as follows:



Then again, the idea of my card making inclination coming from my mother stops there; and perhaps this is because the last card she designed was the only card that shows our entire family. It is posted below this paragraph. We are all seated on our front porch, the front porch my father constructed when he built our house (that we ultimately lost when our family came apart), the house which my grandfather, who was an electrician wired; and, we are looking quite like the family living the American dream, which could not have been further from the truth; and my father moved away soon after that Christmas card photo was taken, which resulted in my mother 's proclaiming (for years to come) how much she hated Christmas, and for years to come she did not send, much less design, cards.


In some respects these cards are more her memories than mine, as are the scrapbooks she made to preserve memories of our family life. For with the exception of the photograph above, which she asked someone to take of us, she was the photographer that documented our lives —obviously from her perspective — even though she proclaimed what she saw through the view-finder of her plastic camera, the Kodak Instamatic,was what we were thinking and feeling.

Perhaps this is why I do not like to have my photograph taken: I don't want people to tell me how I was feeling when they took my picture as evidenced by the shot they captured. For this reason I don't often take photographs of people — although I certainly have (and you can find them in the Black and White Photograph section of my web-site) taken a few and often at the request of the 'subject'.

Still, I am wondering about people like my mother who take pictures of others and insist on the interpretation of their "subject's" feelings. There is an observation in an essay, On keeping A Notebook, by Joan Didion which is this: "Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant re-arrangers of things . . .," and I am now wondering aloud if the same might be said about keepers of scrapbooks and photo albums. I can certainly understand how my mother wanted to re-arrange our lives, given the sadness brought on by my father leaving and perhaps some emptiness before that event occurred. Did she make scrapbooks to remember or to forget? 

For me, years later, looking through these photographs on a Christmas Day, I find they still spark what I was actually feeling on a given occasion in spite of any facial expression I may have in the actual picture. No camera trick or photograph rendition will remove those feelings from my memory, but the photographs do define time into increments that might be lost in one big film dissolve. In another essay, Goodbye to All That, Joan Didion has described an event as"six months (turning) into eight years with the deceptive ease of a film dissolve . . . a long sequence of sentimental dissolves . . . "

The photo at the top of this post to the photo at the bottom of this post represent six months turning into nine years in a long sequence of sentimental dissolves that I am thankful were documented for whatever the reason.

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