We’ve all heard the organizing maximum “It’s not about the stuff.”
But with family photos, especially print photos; that couldn’t ring more true. It’s primarily about the emotional attachment much more than the photos themselves.
When you think about material goods there are none so packed with drama as the family photo. The holders of these objects are attached to the people, the event, the packaging, not to mention the multitude of expectations that are attached to each image.
On a recent visit with my 87-year-old grandmother she asked about a family tree diagram and who had it. I mentioned that I had it and she said “Oh good. As long as I know that our family archivist has it safe, I won’t worry.”
Talk about pressure! As soon as I got home I had to go find the blasted thing and make sure it was safe. For full disclosure it has rattled around for years in my office closet. But here was my dear, beloved grandmother putting her faith in my taking care of the blasted thing. Did I say “BLAST!”?
It’s moments like that that I try to keep in the front of my mind when I’m confronted with a client who feels deeply sentimental about a photo, set of photos, or even an album. There’s more going on than what’s on the surface or even that a client feels comfortable explaining. And truthfully sometimes the client is unaware of why so much emotion is attached to a seemingly small issue.
When moments such as these come up I always try to put the breaks on. This is where, I think, photo organizing gets really interesting. One only needs to ask, “I’m sensing some resistance here. How come?” This is where the real stuff lives, the family story.
“My grandfather made this hobby horse. I know it’s not a very good photo but it’s the only one I have and well…we built it together.”
“Every Sunday my sisters and I would flip through our parent’s wedding album while my dad made pancakes and we’d joke about our future weddings. Can I save the cover?”
I can’t stress enough the importance of slowing down for these stories. So often we want to “get the job done” that we miss the true reason that photo organizing is such an important act of service, we help people connect deeply with their families and their lives.
When I get a chance to work with a client who feels comfortable enough to share their family histories I feel so blessed, I feel so thankful that photo organizing is not about the stuff, it’s about the people.
As the owner of Hodgepodge Limited, Meghan Yule is passionate about preserving family memories. She is currently a graduate student getting my Masters in Library Science with an emphasis on digital archival preservation. Meghan is a self proclaimed minimalist and amateur black and white photographer. Hodgepodge Limited arose out of a passion for photography, a love of family, and a firm belief that family’s photos are their memories and deserve to be honored.