Let’s Talk with Diane A.S. Stuckart

PICTURING THE PAST
By Diane A.S. Stuckart

I admit it. I spend far too much time procrastinating on Facebook when I should be writing my next novel. And, no, I’m not busy promoting my books there. Instead, my preferred hangouts are those pages where followers post all manner of things strange and unusual. (Why? Because, to quote Lydia Deetz from one of my favorite movies, Beetlejuice, I myself am strange and unusual).

Those odd finds tend to be made at antique shops and thrift stores and garage sales, and sometimes even on the roadside. But with the recent stay-at-home orders that precluded shopping, one particular group I belong to didn’t want to encourage folks to break quarantine. And so they decreed a temporary hiatus on the weird stuff. Instead, they asked the group to put up interesting vintage photographs of their family members along with an anecdote about the photo’s subject(s).

People rushed to do so, and we soon had a group consensus. It turns out that our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were far cooler and tougher and more interesting (also prettier and more handsome) than we modern-day schlubs could ever hope to be.

Looking at my old family photos, I have to agree with that sentiment. One of my favorites shots is that of my paternal grandmother as a cutie back in the 1920s. Grandma Smart—or rather, Anna, as she was known back then—is casually posed with a Model T, one foot propped on the running board. From the next decade is a photograph of my Grandpa Frank Smart’s soft drink bottling company complete with delivery truck. But the ultimate in coolness is the fabulous snapshot of my mom, Helen, looking like a bathing beauty as she poses in her swimsuit at an Austin, Texas spring in the 1950s.

In these days of smartphones, we have digital pictures capturing every facet and practically every moment of our collective lives. And I can’t deny that it’s rather awesome to be able to document our existence so thoroughly. But it’s not quite the same as sorting through a box of old photographs. An Instagram shot of me holding a giant frappe last week doesn’t have nearly the impact of the faded black-and-white Polaroid of a eight-year-old me holding a stringer of fish. In fact, that plucky little girl looks pretty darned cool…and tough…and interesting. At least, that’s what I hope my middle-aged descendants will say one day when they stumble across that box of vintage pictures of me and my siblings!

So, do you hold onto your old family photos, or are you digital all the way?

 

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Comments

  1. We are cleaning out to move and I realized we have tubs and tubs = 9 or 10 of albums and loose pictures.. that the kids will need to go through. Sure to be a good laugh and some happy and nostalgic memories.

    • Debra, I’m thinking about doing one of those legacy box things and sending away a bunch of photos to be digitized. But I’d still have to sort the pictures, first. Never had this problem back in the days of daguerreotypes, LOL.

  2. I love print photos. I have taken apart some old albums and keep them in boxes,

  3. I’m keeping our print photos because these have become a rarity now that we’ve gone digital. In the event that cyberspace disintegrates, at least we’ll have the old family pictures. I need to sort through them and throw out the vacation photos with landscape scenery and no people.

    • I think pictures are so important. We want to think that we’ll remember family members and friends long after they are gone, but the truth is that their faces and the sounds of their voices begin to fade over time. They will stay alive in our hearts forever, but photos help keep them alive in our minds.

  4. Over the years I have rescued many boxes of old photos that family members were about to toss when relatives passed away. Some go as far back as the latter half of the 1800’s in Europe. Unfortunately, for some reason people didn’t often label photos back then. So although I know the people in them are relatives, I often have no idea who they are other than from which side of the family.

    • I know what you mean on the IDs, but sometimes I have luck posting pics to our family and seeing if anyone else knows who they are. And the year is always helpful, too. (Love those old photos that had the date printed on the side or back by the developer.)

  5. maggietoussaint says

    I’ve got photo albums, boxes of prints still to be albumed (is that a word?), old slides, and super 8 movies. However, since digital this and that came out, I’ve been taking digital pics. Trying to keep them longterm is challenging since floppy discs and cds as primary storage devices have come and gone. I have external hard drives, thumb drives, and cloud storage now but when will that become obsolete? And as I age out, will those things matter to the kids? Seems like the best thing to do with the pics in albums is to get those sorted out for the kids and remaining family members. About 5 years ago I collected family photos of my paternal grandmother’s many descendants and my generation, collected family essays, made a run at genealogy, and inventoried the family cemetery to create a paperback for the family: “The Descendants of Ann Margaret Atwood.” It’s up on Amazon if anyone would like to get the self-publishing bug.

    • Maggie, that’s great. My mother wrote her autobiography, printed and bound it, and gave it to us kids one Christmas about 20 years ago. Not sure that the bros and my sister much appreciate it but I certainly do cherish it. I’m sure your family is thrilled you took on the task. Cool that you put it up on Amazon. I think I’ll take a look-see!

  6. I used to take my Nikon camera with me wherever we’d go. So now I have to sort thru piles of negatives (both B&W & Color) just to see what the heck they were from. I also have a number of broken photo albums we found in a 30 lb carton in the top of a closet. We sorted thru those, gave a batch to the kids, cousins and friends. Now I have to find nice albums that will hold the leftover 4×6 photos and a bunch of loose 5×7’s. When we’re finally gone it will be up to either our four grown children to deal with it or some of the ten grandkids. But really, who cares it won’t be OUR prolbem at that point. LOL

    • LOL, we have SOOOO many photos that my husband took, and it’s just me and him. Luckily (ha ha) some got damaged in storage but we still have tons o’ them. Someday when I’m old and nothing to do I’ll sort thru them.