Sharing Is Good
“Sharing is good.“ This childhood lesson is applicable in all areas of life, of course, but today I want to encourage sharing of your family photos.
It’s been written about ad nauseum in recent years: Our digital photo scrolls are out of control…we need to stop taking so many pictures and live in the moment…we never print our pictures anymore.
While I agree wholeheartedly with each of these lamentable statements, it’s the lack of printed photos that troubles me most—specifically, the sense of connection and excitement that gets lost when we neglect to print our photos, and share them in person.
In person, I say.
It’s temporarily gratifying to get lots of likes on an Instagram share, to see heart emojis galore on your Facebook post. But the joy that results from sharing a memory in person—well, that simply can’t compare.
Why You Should Share Your Photos
A family photo holds a story. It is a font of memories, frozen in one still frame.
Amazingly enough, the story shifts with each participant: Your mom, maybe, who took the photo, remembers things just a bit differently than you do; and your sister, a few years older, recalls things from an entirely different perspective. What about your baby brother, who only saw this photo—and heard its associated stories—years later?
Like all stories derived from memories, truth is subjective. And while a photo seems to capture a scene exactly as it happened, well, that’s subjective, too. Can you say “conversation starter”?!
So besides sparking conversation, why should you share your photos—and your photo memories—with loved ones? Here are three compelling reasons:
1 - You share, they share.
It’s contagious. You show someone an old photo from your childhood, and they reciprocate with a shot they had in a drawer somewhere. You pull out your dad’s old scrapbook filled with family photos from his youth to spark conversation with your parents, and they reveal they have two more stored in the basement.
Sharing what you have encourages family members to share some of their own family treasures, too—and what could be better than that?
2 - You might learn something.
From a name scribbled on the back of an old photographic print or a comment made in passing by a family member to whom you are showing your photos, you just may discover something new: details or backstory that enrich your own experience of the picture; or perhaps a surname or location that helps with a genealogical search.
Just because your family elders have not shared such info before doesn’t mean they don’t know it—too often I hear, “Well, no one ever asked me.” So show…and ask!
3 - You’ll feel darn good.
Sharing the joy and love associated with your favorite family photos makes that joy grow. You get that altruistic benefit that comes from sharing of yourself—witnessing another’s enjoyment, and feeling your own heart swell.
Print and share your family photos with loved ones. Besides generating conversation, you will spark joy, find genealogy clues, and discover even more treasures.
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“His is the broad nose, the high cheekbones, the determined mouth, the face not like an oval or a heart, but like a square. He died long before I'd ever meet him, but I carried him in my blood.” In Beth Kephart's contribution to our “Pictures Into Words” series, you’ll find inspiration for writing about a photograph that holds more mystery than memory. Sometimes it's the wondering, the imagining, that brings life to an old photo—that carries your ancestors from the past into the present and finds the narrative thread in our connected lives.
Yuliana Gomez Delgado reflects on a favorite photograph with her grandmother, a shot that has taken on new meaning now that Yuliana herself knows what it is to be called Mother. As she poignantly writes, “Burying her was saying goodbye to my childhood—it was the first time I realized time went forever forward, and so many happy memories were destined to stay behind.” And yet, she finds a lasting way to honor her Mamita, and create a loving legacy for her family.
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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but when you actually attach words to a picture it gains even greater value. Photographs jog our memories, and as such make excellent prompts for writing short life stories, or as I call them, vignettes. Here are easy tips to get you started writing about your photographs and memories. By elucidating the stories associated with your family pictures, you leave a visual AND narrative history to your children, a gift from the past for the future.