Why You Are Lost Without Your Family Photos

Why You Are Lost Without Your Family Photos
Three Family Photos of Gwendoline Busby
My mother; Gwendoline Busby (nee Dimes) 1927 – 2017. Unknown Photographers

As you know, I have been making arrangements for my mother’s funeral, and I spent almost a whole day looking through family photos for pictures of her. They will be placed up large on a tv screen in the Chapel and small for the memorial card.

Knowing that she cared a great deal about her weight and appearance until the end, I wanted something that captured her essence, was recentish, and nice.

Why You Are Lost Without Your Family Photos

Your family photos place you in a context. You can look at them and see where you came from, and to an extent, where you might be heading. They make sense of who and where you are.

While I was searching, I came across a picture taken around 35 years ago. Mum is cooking, dressed in a shabby old housecoat, and she has a cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth, so she is squinting through the smoke. It was taken in the days when photos only came on paper, and they were relatively expensive to print, so you generally took them carefully.

These days you would probably delete it from your phone almost as soon as you took it because she would make such a fuss. But to me, it is a precious representation of who she was when she was still herself; before dementia took her away. Much better than remembering her as the empty shell she became.

Be in Your Family Photos

As I was looking through the pictures, I observed some commonalities throughout the family:

  1. When you and your kids are young, there are lots of photos.
  2. At some point, you become self-conscious and start making faces.
  3. At some point, you refuse to be in them at all.

The three pictures shown above are the only ones suitable for the funeral. I am so sad that we have so few “decent” pictures to remember her by. How wonderful it would have been to go through them laughing and crying, saying “Remember this?” or “Remember that?”

I know I’ve said it before, and I know it’s really hard, but try to stay in your family photos! Smile – don’t grimace. Leave your true self for those who come after to see; living your version of a full and happy worthwhile life.

Curate Your Family Photos

I discovered my fair share of unidentified people. There are hundreds of photos of Mum’s brothers and sisters – people who were so familiar to her that she didn’t see the need to note who and where they were, or what they were celebrating. I don’t even know which ones were her brothers and which her boyfriends!

Thank goodness Katy is meticulous when she sends me pictures of her children. She curates her family photos as if she was putting together an art or museum exhibition; I may not remember who they are, but I can look at the back of the picture and read her notes about who, when, where and why.

If You Don’t Have a Family

If like me, you don’t have children of your own, you are not off the hook.

When you die, someone will want photos of you for your funeral. And your family photos will end up somewhere, whether that’s your wider family, a market stall, or some kind of State Archive.

In 100 years (or whenever the copyright runs out), someone like me will be looking for illustrations for something, and if they know your name, they will remember you (trust me on this), even though what’s left of your family doesn’t.

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