There is a popular saying, “A picture paints a thousand words.” Isn’t this why so many people take photographs? We need these mementos to help us remember the past. Because without them we forget. But the truth is even with them we forget. This is because our brains aren’t capable of retrieving all the specifics that make up actual stories. With the passing of time the story lines become twisted. If the who, what, when, where, and why never get answered, what becomes of the story? The answers can only come from those who lived the stories. And if these answers never get recorded, the photograph is merely a piece of paper with some people’s images printed in ink. It is through the narratives that we attach to these pictures that our stories live on long after we are gone.
In The Family Historian, I challenge my students to search their souls for what is most sacred to them and therefore must be preserved. I encourage them to let down their guards and document their families with honesty.
During the first week of class, I show the students how to capture what matters most in their family stories while using creative light and composition. I believe that you can document your everyday authentically and artistically.
In order to leave behind a rich, authentic family history, I encourage the students to capture not only the good but also the bad. I was so proud of all of the students who allowed themselves to be vulnerable. They embraced the mess and chaos of raising children and captured it not only accurately but also beautifully.
A major goal of mine when teaching this workshop is to not only embolden students to step into the frame with their families, but also to write themselves into the story by photographing themselves in real everyday moments with their children. I want them to take self-portraits that show connection. These photos might one day be all that our children have of us. Shouldn’t they show them who we really were and how intensely we loved them?
The final assignment required the students to put everything they learned about light, composition, authenticity, and writing narratives together to document an important part of their family history. This is when all those important questions get answered. The narratives connect the dots. They bolster the photographs. Together they tell the stories that make up a family legacy.
Perhaps there should be a new saying, “A picture inspires a thousand words.”
Over the course of two weeks, I quickly became enamored with the beautiful voices who came together to share their stories, their hopes and fears, and their hearts. I look forward to keeping in touch with these students and hopefully getting peeks from time to time at the lovely stories that they are writing for themselves and those they love most.