I had a clear and unambiguous dream last night. Ninety nine percent of my dreams vanish into thin air, or are troubled nightmares, or are about looking for something or walking down an unknown road. But this dream was one of those rare dreams that was so crystal clear I could remember every detail when I woke up.
What I dreamed is that I was giving a presentation to a large group of people about the importance of photography in genealogy. My first camera was a baby brownie at the age of 13 or so and for some mysterious reason I have bought dozens of updated cameras over the years. I graduated from black and white box cameras to 35 mm cameras and Kodachrome and ultimately to digital cameras. When I was young I took photos of my four sisters, brother, parents, the farm where we lived, the river near by and other scenes. As it turned out, those photos are the only photos my siblings have of our growing up years. Unfortunately, I or no one else ever thought about making sure I was in some of the photos since I was the one who took almost all of them. Today those photos are treasures of great price. Many of the most priceless memories I and my siblings have of our childhood are locked into those wonderful images of our youth. In turn, those photos become an additional treasure to our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren, and so on down the line. Of course, one of the difficulties in those days was the fact that I had to take my little rolls of film to town to the drug store and pay to have prints made. Since I had no money, every roll of film developed was a precious and valued gift. Then, with 35 mm., we had to have the film developed and converted to slides. And that was expensive in the days when $1 may have meant an hour and a half of work.
Today we live in an age of photographic miracles. Anyone with a smartphone can take thousands of good photos if they will take a few minutes to learn how to use the wonderful camera in the phone. Digital cameras by the dozens are available at all price ranges. We can take an infinite number of photos for free, basically, and delete generously the duplicates and bad photos without paying to have them developed.
One problem today is that so many people don't take photography seriously. A few quick clicks and a fast post to Facebook and photography is over. While instant gratification on Instagram, Facebook, and other media outlets can be a valuable means of communication and can provide enjoyment to many people, the popularity of instant and transient photography is not going to be much help for family records and genealogy. Unless some effort is made to preserve these photos and make them available to family and others, all of the instant photography is going to vanish into thin air.
Digital photography offers a multitude of ways to preserve and distribute photos. The two most important ways, to me at least, of saving and distributing photos are these:
- Storing on CDs and DVDs and distributing these discs to family members and others. Even these methods may be outdated by continuing technology shifts so we have to stay up-to-date on the latest methods of saving and storing photos so our descendants don't end up with a pile of unusable discs.
- Print photo books. Printing photo books offers the most permanent and attractive way of saving photos, although the number of photos saved in photo books is likely to be significantly smaller than the vast numbers of photos you can save on CDs and DVDs. Dozens of photo book printing outlets exist. I like My Publisher and Artifact Uprising. Many people use Shutterfly. Shop around on the internet but check the ratings before you settle on a printer. By printing some of your best photos from Facebook and your phone memory every few months, you can be sure that you can save your images for another day. It's important to let others know how they can order copies of the books you publish if you don't just give copies to them to begin with.
So far we've talked about new photos that we are just taking now. The biggest treasure trove of photos, however, is likely to be held in shoe boxes, old albums, hard drives, on CDs and DVDs, dresser drawers, old trunks, and wherever else people saved the gems of their lifetime. Now is the time to resurrect these photos to their rightful place in family lore, history, and genealogy. Most people don't have any idea what to do with them. The best thing to do is to find some one who will scan these photos into a form you can use to print photos and photo books. Some libraries have scanners, and some photography companies will scan your shoe boxes full of photos. I have about 40 old photo albums that my wife put together over many years. If I die before doing something with these photos, none of my children or descendants will ever have an opportunity to see them. So I splurged and bought the Kodak flatbed scanner which many commercial scanners use. The miracle of this scanner is that it will scan a page in a photo album and then separate the photos on that page into separate photos just as if you had scanned the photos individually.
By taking a little time now to manage and distribute current photos and to find a method to preserve old photos, you can bestow a priceless gift to your children and to future generations. You can find much information on line about printing, scanning, and storing photos. Delaying too long can mean the loss of a valuable heritage. Doing something about your photos can provide an incredible boost to anyone doing family history or genealogy.
And that is what my dream was all about. Maybe there was a purpose to my dreaming this dream. I like to think that maybe there was a purpose.