exist in photographs for future generations / by Kylie Greffenius

At my mother’s house, in a cabinet where the heirloom crystal and fine china is kept, are 4 old photo albums.  One album is from the 50s, two from the 70s and another album from the 80s.  In those albums are pictures of 6 generations of my family.  Teeny tiny photos of my grandmother holding my mother on her knee,  stunning full page images of my grandparent’s wedding that have been hand painted in soft colour and lots of fabulous square prints with curved edges from the 70s and all the years since. 


They’re real, tangible pieces of history that can be handed down through generations and every photograph has a story that I have heard often enough to remember most of them. 


I often wonder if one day, in a hundred years, my great grand-daughter will have a cabinet full of heirloom crystal and a box of old iPhones and USB sticks.  Chances are that no computer available in 100 years will take a USB, that is if it hasn’t corrupted in some way over time.  I have a 5 year old phone that I recently turned on for the first time in 3 years and it just doesn’t work anymore.  It was working perfectly when I last turned it off.  Since the time of ‘Beta’ video cassettes and floppy disks we have learned that digital media has a use-by date.  If you don’t transfer the images onto the new form of media at the right time, you miss out … forever.  It’s a strong possibility that all of the photos that we keep on phones, DVD and USB will disappear.


As modern media becomes redundant over time so too does cheap photographic paper.  Much of the mass produced paper sold to consumers and from photo kiosks contain various synthetic compounds that reduce the cost of the paper but also lead to it's early demise.  Colours fade and the paper yellows.  Serious Printers and Pro Photographers stock archival quality papers for printing your precious memories.  They cost more and archival inks cost more but our clients are looking for quality and they deserve the best.

My Great Great Great Grandmother, Elizabeth.

My Great Great Great Grandmother, Elizabeth.

Beautiful printed photographs can never be replaced.  They are the link back to our people just as they will be the link back to us one day.  One image can tell someone so much.

A few years ago I searched an Ancestry web site for information on my ancestors.  What I found was beautiful, valuable and long lasting.  I found uploaded photographs of my great grandfather, my great great grandparents and my great great great grandparents.  The oldest photograph is about 140 years old.  In each photograph they were dressed in their best clothes, standing in a studio and the photographer’s logo formed part of the image.  Photography was rare and a luxury but my ancestors took the time and effort to visit a studio and preserve the image of who they were, forever.

A hundred years later those cherished photographs were inherited by far removed cousins of mine and uploaded to the ancestry site some time later.  I absolutely know that the images are genuine as the resemblance of the women to my mother is striking.  When I showed my mother her first response was “Now I know who I look like”.

The photo of my great grandfather is a family photo where he is joined by his parents and many siblings.  I’m fascinated by the body language in the shot, you can see the closeness between siblings and parents.  They lean on each other and look very relaxed in each others company.  It’s such a perfect capture.  I am so appreciative that they valued a Photograph for it's ability to capture who they were so that their growing family could know them like this.

My Great Grandfather George with my Great Great Grandparents and his siblings

My Great Grandfather George with my Great Great Grandparents and his siblings

We learn from history, are inspired by history and enjoy the tales of how we came to be here.  We should never be so humble as to believe that we don’t have a story that should live on in some way.  We also should leave something more beautiful and real behind than a series of iPhone selfies.

It’s not the Photographer in me that believes we should have professional photographs taken and printed as an heirloom item.  It’s the mother in me that believes this, the daughter and the great, great granddaughter. 

There’s usually one person in every family who is always behind the camera.  I have few family photographs with me in them where I managed to get a passer-by to press the shutter.  I never look relaxed, I’m always ready to jump back in and grab the camera off the nice stranger.  When my friends take photos of me there’s rarely any careful posing or consideration of lighting that takes place.  I am not photogenic and I hear the same thing from clients on a regular basis.  A Professional Photographer knows when you’re relaxed, it takes time and we dedicate that time to your session.  Someone didn’t stop us on our way to the bathroom and ask us to take a family snap.

If we want to leave behind an image of who we are it needs to be planned, carefully orchestrated and printed correctly to ensure it survives a hundred years and more.  Even natural un-posed photographs need some consideration of where and how and when.   Visiting a Professional Photographer was important to our older generations and it still holds significant value today.