« New Jeff Schewe Book | Main | A Tip for Dealing with Uncooperative Subjects »

Tuesday, 06 August 2013


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Well said, good reminder.

Pressing the 'Like' button, now.

My Father:

Can't agree more. This year we lost a good friend and had difficulty in finding an image of him for his obituary. Yes he hated having his picture taken; found quite a few where he was caught dodging cameras. We should have been insistent on at least a few occasions so that his last "appearance" in the press was an image as we all remember; not one that caught him out in a not very elegant pose.

Right on Ken!
I have almost no pictures of my father but the ones I do have, I treasure.

Well written Ken! Too many photographers take pictures of things they think others will value, but forget to capture on film what they themselves value!

This is a great point - 2 years back I started with the conceit of 365 photo blog, that over time, became a set of 14 page photobooks for each month. All sorts of interesting but lifeless stuff at the beginning, and then it became a family album after my daughter was born. Priceless. I know I'm biased, but the shots of my kids in the last few years are some of my best work - what subject do I know better? And if it's not 'art', who the heck cares?!

My condolences on your loss.
I fall into the latter category. I do routinely take pics of my family and friends. My friends, who number about 7, have been close for the past 40+ years. They all have pics of us when we were teenagers. I love looking at them, snapping copies of the with my phone. That has greatly influenced me and is a major reason I always document with my camera family gatherings, etc.

"Old friends, old friends
Sat on a park bench, like bookends"

Paul Simon.

All too true, when asked why I don't delete the "bad ones" I say "they may be the "only ones" someday".


Ken, what you say is so true. Four years ago I lost my father, he was 91. When my mother died, 17 years before him, me and my brother spent a single available wednesday evening having dinner with him. The conversations were great, he was very entertaining. During the Second WW he fought with Rommel in Africa and was caught by the british, ending up in a concentration camp in India until the war ended. He had many, many stories to tell. Two weeks before he passed away, I bought a digital recorder to record his talks during these meetings. I missed to bring the recorder the last two wednesdays and never recorded his voice. You don't know how much I regret that. I have some pictures of him, but his voice telling his stories was what I wanted more.

I can empathise with what you've written! My condolences to you and your family.

I'm sorry for your loss, Ken, and appreciative of the reminder.

Very true. Photography is my way to hold on to memory and to seek solace from mortality.

Hear, hear.

What a beautiful and eloquent thing to say. Condolences for your loss Ken.

Don't just photograph them.

Do a video interview with them about interesting parts of their life.

Very good advice Ken.

While your admonition to take the photos, print, and file them is excellent, my filling system for hard copies is horrific.

I would add that keeping a copy of photos on the cloud is handy too. Last year I attended two funerals out of town. When I arrived the family was looking for photos of the departed. I don't travel with a portfolio of prints or a hard drive of every image, but I can access my password protected photos via the cloud. In my case I use Smugmug. To make matters even easier, I use keywords to find every shot across the years I have of any person. I confess I only recently realized the value of adding keywords. I was able to download photos and flip them to Walgreens to have them locally print a book of photos and an instant canvas wrap of a 16x20 for pickup in an hour. Works better than just showing up with flowers. I wish I could bring back the people as I can bring back their photos. But at least I have the photos, and your post suggesting you make sure you have photos of people you care about is important.

Absolutely, Ken.

My shot of my dad (who died in May, 2011) hangs in my mom's sunroom:

Dad Is Back Home, June 17, 2013

There's a reason that photographs are some of the most cherished possessions and I think it has to do with them being a little bit of a time machine that lets you take your loved ones into the future with you.

I wrote the nearly the same thing just about five years ago. Its a good lesson to remember.


My condolences Kenneth, hope you're doing ok.


Let me echo your sentiment. My father died at the age of 56, while I was in graduate school. Many years later, looking for family photos to mount on a family wall in our house, all I could find were two very poorly exposed shots I took of him in the last 6 months of his life. Those, plus a few badly worn photos from his time in Egypt as a very young Royal Navy rating in World War II. I found the wartime photos in my mother's "family photo archive": a battered old suitcase he received from the RN when he was discharged at the end of the war in 1945 and returned to "civvy street".

I didn't repeat the same mistake with my mother, wife and daughter. I've hundreds of each of them. Some printed and on the wall and the rest safely archived on my hard drives.

My condolences on your loss, Kenneth.

This is so very timely. Just this morning I was looking through my collection of photos of friends and family, and it came to me that I must do a book of them.

Because, in the end, these are the photos that are the most valuable in my library. Some of the people are already gone, but their faces and their lives stay bright in my memory through these photos.

La photographie est la mémoire qui nous donne la preuve de ce qu'on a vécu.

Unfortunately, I can't remember where I read this but I thought it was very à propos.

Sincere condolences on your loss, Ken.

I too share your failings. Despite being known as the "official family photographer", on call to record all those formal lifetime events, the task of capturing the memories of a family Christmas, or a day at the beach, invariably falls to my wife and her beater of a Panasonic P&S. I'm too often pre-occupied with hunting down that "decisive moment" photograph elsewhere, overlooking those opportunities that are closer-at-hand and doubtless more intimate and precious.

I should have learned the lesson by now. Several years ago, on holiday with another keen photographer and his family, I was a little taken aback at the many photographs he took of the children playing on the beach, or of us eating in a restaurant. Suffice to say, at the end of the holiday - from which I managed only a handful of third-class "street photos" - he put together a superb slideshow of the holiday, set to music, that can still be found on YouTube. Your poignant story today will make me try harder.

A good point, well made.

Sorry about your loss, Kenneth.

I second your suggestion that photos of one's nearest and dearest four-legged as well as two) are printed. For the record, I use black A3 artist sketchbooks. Acid-free paper and pretty cheap. They are also generic so if one company stops making them you can always them elsewhere.

I also second Bill Poole's recommendation of the Phaidon book, Family; Photographers Photograph Their Families. The title is awkward but the book is a joy and a timely to keep taking photos of those nearest to us.

That's certainly what drew me into photography, and also most of what keeps me there.

My photographic regrets often center on my everyday environment (partly because I've actually done fairly decently with the important people in my life; photographically at least); the computer center at my highschool, and at Carleton College, for example, and especially the computers I used there, all of which are now heavily featured in the Computer Museum.

Kenneth, thank you, and, my condolences.

This year I looked at a poorly focused reel of 8mm Kodachrome that my Grandfather took of me as a baby. It covered a few minutes at a time, from 6 months to two years. It wasn't so much seeing myself as a baby that was interesting (though I have two little kids now), but it was wonderful seeing my dad, my grandmother, and my grandfather holding me and playing with me. They are all gone now, and few people remember them, but I get to see the bright love they had for me. Love they had long before I was capable of doing anything to earn it or anything to impress them.

I would add to Kenneth's advice: take a few short video clips - ninety seconds is enough - of your children or grandchildren. Not for your sake (though that is wonderful) but for theirs.


I recently lost my mother at 98. Fortunately and at my wife's suggestion I made many images of her, particularly recently, alone and with family. She travelled extensively as a young woman and made photo albums, annotated of herself with friends and family. The annotations or captions, I suggest are very important to those coming later and provide valuable information. As a result of having these albums, I was able to scan the pages and the individual images and prepare a slide show that was shared at her celebration of life and sent to family. The annotations helped me greatly in preparing a history of her life which was also shared.

Don't just take photos and print them. Send copies (even just digital files) to other family members. For one thing, they'll want them for themselves. But these copies distributed around the family will serve as "backups" in case of fire/flood/theft/loss.

When I worked at the "Fotoshop" (actual name of the place in Pittsburgh) scanning and digitally restoring prints for people I always told them to make copies to send to their families for these reasons. I was astonished that most people said that thought had never occurred to them.

It is very timely that you should make your post on the 6 Aug, Ken.

My Mother died on the 6 Aug 1992. I was 19. I did not attend her funeral, I have no pictures of her. I was homeless with in six months of her passing. In those days I was much more likely to take a camera than a picture, I was seldom out of trouble,

I met a good girl who had a good Mother, that would come to see me as a son. Her birthday would have been Aug 6th (it's past midnight in the UK so i can't say today). She passed just before I married her daughter. I gave the eulogy at her funeral

I spent all of Aug 6th mindful of the Mother that made me, and of the one that saved me. I take a lot of pictures of her daughter, I posted once on this blog that if I only ever took pictures of her, it would be enough for me. But I do treasure the pictures I took of her mother

I'm sorry for your loss


Sorry for your loss Ken. And thanks.

Ken, I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for your wonderful writing, even in these circumstances.

I was born on my father's birthday. For a number of years, when I lived close to him, I made a self-portrait of the two of us on our shared day. I know these will be treasures in the years to come. Now I must make a point to do more.

"Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph. Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you."
From Simon and Garfunkle's "Bookends".

My mother passed away in February. I spent some time scanning & attempting to restore a few old pictures of her to display at the memorial service. I wish I had more pictures of her as we (my brother and I) grew up. Apparently, she was the one that was often behind the camera that I always thought of as Dads (a Kodak Instamatic 126 cartridge model that I still have, though the red flocking is disintegrating). But every photo I have is a memory I can't forget.

Amen to that. I took up photography after a gap of 22 years for to capture moments of our lives.

My condolences for your loss.

I've had several close friends die in the last few years. I have a few snaps of them, but have never looked at them since. They live and move in 3D in my memory, not in a photograph.


I'm sorry for your loss. But really, whaddaya, nuts? Print something? Didn't you get the memo? We don't print anything now, we just look at tiny pictures on our cell phones.

It's a loss to all of us. Buy a nice printer, and make prints. Whatever it is, you will be happy.

"I've been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they're real": The Cure - Pictures Of You Lyrics (Cruz, Taio / Smith, Fraser).

A few years ago my mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Shortly after on a sunny afternoon, I posed both my parents in a shaded spot in their garden and shot a few portraits of them together. Later that very day, her condition worsened seriously, and although she managed to battle on for nine months, medication, radiation therapy and chemo meant she never again looked the way she used to do, the way I remember her.

Take them while you still can. I have plenty of pictures of both my parents, but frightfully few good ones of them together. The picture I took that day is hanging on the wall in the houses of all my siblings.

This post hit a particular nerve for me Ken as I lost my father on Monday. My instant thought was that I too decided to reach back into the archives to see if I could find any pictures of him, not least because many of the reasons I took up photography, or perhaps more accurately took up photographing, was because of him. This was because my father vehemently despised getting his picture taken.

In the 60 odd years of his life I could barely find 10, especially ones of him and him alone. However I did discover the hundreds and hundreds that he had taken of me, the family and of his family. To myself I find these to be possibly of more significance. These are pictures that I know to be wholly of my father, not just of his index.

Thank you for sharing your experience.

It's a fine line, to be sure, but I recently made the decision to put down my camera more often and capture fewer photos of my family, not more.

No doubt it's just a quirk unique to me, but put a camera in my hand and I can't help but to start thinking about the photograph I'm taking instead of interacting with the person(s) I'm photographing.

While photographs nicely complement memories, they can't replace them and for me, finding a better balance between the two was long overdue. YMMV...

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007