Flipping through photo albums is a thing of the past

Published 8:34 am Monday, June 1, 2015

In search of genealogy, I often find the name of an ancestor and wonder what they were like and how they looked. If I am really lucky, I may find a photo. What a wonderful thing!

Not long ago while going through some photos left by a relative, I found a photo of my three times great-grandfather. Until not so very long ago, we didn’t know his name. There it was written on the back of an old sepia tone photo. I was elated!

In that same bunch of photos I also found some of people I could remember, and to make sure, their names were written on the back. Unfortunately, there were numerous other obviously very old pictures with no names, and I have no idea who they might be, nor does anybody else.

This got me thinking about those old photographs and their names on the back. When someone gave my mother a picture, she immediately wrote the name. If they were school pictures, she also included ages and their grade in school. No problem with her photographs.

Often I threaten to sit down and write on the backs of all the photos I have but it is such a big undertaking, I keep putting it off. As the main photographer in the family for years, I have tons of pictures. However, I would hate 50 to 75 years from now for somebody to look at my photos and wonder.

That’s going to be a future rainy day project for sure.

While going through my stored items on computer, I found literally hundreds of photos that have never been printed. As long as we had cameras with film, they were taken to be developed and printed and we had real pictures to show for our efforts.

With these new digital cameras that hold literally hundreds of photos, we either let them set in the camera and forget them or we download them to the computer and let them linger there. When I saw how many I had stored that have never been printed, I was ashamed of myself.

The big problem with storing without printing is technology is changing so fast, by the time we are gone and others come along to look at our photos on computer or tape or CDs, the things to view them are obsolete and there is no way to see them.

Already those CDs we have some stored on are giving way to DVDs, and I’m pretty sure there is already something in the works to replace that as well.

So what will happen when our great-great-grandchildren want to see what we looked like when they are digging around in genealogy? What they are going to find are faded color photos or technology that has been left so far behind as to be laughable.

We have seen what has stood the test of time in these old black and white or sepia-toned photographs. I have some that are probably 150 years-old or more. Hard to believe they have lasted so long, but most of them are still sharp and beautiful. One of the reasons is photos were often stored in albums away from light. Even those in frames have lasted very well.

Color photos are going to fade over time if left in the light. I have large color photos of my children when they graduated from high school, framed and hanging in the living room. Although still pretty good, they are showing signs of fading just a bit. In time, they will fade more if I don’t get them out of the light.

There are papers and glass especially designed to prevent fading and damage to photos. The color dyes presently being used in photography are better than they used to be, but only time will tell if they will really last.

So many people don’t keep photos or they don’t take photos. In the many years I have been painting oil portraits, numerous times I have had to use several less than perfect photos to combine together because the family didn’t have a good photo of a loved one who died. Since they wanted one, I was able to put what they had together and paint a likeness.

So what do we do? I know if I have photos stored, many others do also. There is nothing like hard copies. If you keep something stored on the computer and want to keep it a long time, put it in hard copy — print it! Do the same thing with your photos.

Use your camera or phone to take photos, but go through them and have the best ones printed.

Then take the time to identify them. Write along the edges on the back, but not with a felt tip marker! It will bleed through.

Whether packed away in a box or in an album, hopefully they will stand the test of time and someday one of your great-great-grandchildren will find a photo of you. They will be delighted, especially when they discover your name written on the back.