A Photographic Estate

Old Camera

When someone passes away, tough choices are everywhere.  Including what to do with photos.  That is not the toughest choice in the grand scheme of things, but one that still needs to be made.

Someone has left us recently and I was chatting with family members about what to do with their photos.

There are boxes and boxes of photos saved but the majority of them aren’t described or don’t have notes about who is in them.  They made the decision if they don’t know any of the people in the photo, they are tossing it.

They will save the photos that are important to them.  I’m not necessarily opposed to that because what other option is there?  Are photos ephemeral?  Have they served their primary use during the lifetime of their original owners?

Have you had to go through someone else’s photo collection before?

Image from Cyler Parent via Creative Commons license.


8 thoughts on “A Photographic Estate

  1. My mom was faced with the same decision after her father died and grandma went into a nursing home with dementia. Like your family, she chose to keep the photos of people she knew and events that were important to her.

    I still can’t help wondering if we are missing something when we toss old photos. As our media transfers to an all-digital format, will we have the means to view those photos in the future or will they be tossed aside like our grandparents’ snapshots. I don’t have the answers, but I do wish I could keep them all!

    • We are definitely missing something when we toss our photos, I don’t think that can be avoided. It’s just a question of how we decide what to toss. And actually, our digital photos will be tossed aside even more easily than our grandparents’ photos. Digital media will deteriorate much faster than analog.

  2. As the unofficial Historian of my family, I just could NOT throw them away. I actually have made a scrapbook with those photos. I have a large extended family – my Grandparents had 8 and 9 siblings EACH – and do see some of those kissin’ cousins every few years in our own travels. With the digital technology available today and the easy sharing of photos through social media I have hopes of one day identifying them all. (A girl can always hope, right?!?) In the meantime, they are in a an unembellished album on simple black pages. The best of both worlds for me 🙂

    And most of my scrapbooking friends and customers, have done exactly what your family has done. Unidentified photos are just more clutter to be gotten rid of. And this is why I continue to scrapbook my own photos. I’ve found photos from my own childhood of friends that I went to school with or lived in our neighborhood whose names I can’t recall. I recognize their face and could even tell you they lived 3 or 4 houses down from me or on the next block. But their name has escaped me. I wonder if I could have recalled their name when I was 20-something instead of 40-something?? A really good reminder to tell your stories now!!

    • I don’t know if I could personally throw them away, but then again I don’t know what I would do with them. This is also a big family we are talking about (in my case), so they will likely be saving a lot because they will know people. But for the others, what to do?

      I agree, the real lesson here is to describe your photos now.

    • It’s so nice to hear from you. I’ve been following along with your posts (even when I was on vacation) and I hope things look up soon!

  3. I think scanning them and posting them online somewhere…I think ancestry.com might have this feature (but could also be done with facebook of flckr)…basically make them somewhat public so that other family members could comment on them, too. The sorter might not know anything about the photo, but that may not be true of other family members (or even friends of the family).

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