I’ve often thought that if we should have a fire, the one thing I’d most hate to lose would be my pictures—the printed ones before digital cameras and smartphones took over.

IMG_0015Last week, I got smart and paid a student to scan all my “old” pictures—the ones that came from my mother’s photo albums. Then I put them in folders under my overall “Memoir” folder. My next task will be to rename them so they are easily identifiable.

My ultimate goal is to have all my photos scanned, but since I’m working on a memoir connected with my childhood and my parents, it was a no-brainer to start with the “old” pictures.

Today, I’m inserting some of the pictures into the memoir I’m working on.

The student who scanned my photos is actually taking photography and learning to do Photoshop. Damaged photos were actually needed for a class project! I had about 10 or 15 of those. Some have a crease in them. A couple had gouges on the edges. A few were too dark or light. Hopefully, they’ll all soon look better.

In the picture here, taken in 1911 in Wapella, Saskatchewan, my grandmother, Alice MacDonald (McDonald?), is holding her first-born child, my mother. I assume it was the day Mom was christened. Alice was either almost 18 or just turned 18. She’d married my grandfather the year before.

Of course, when I knew her, my grandmother was much older, and looked nothing like this. It’s fascinating to me to try to picture what her life was like, and how she became the person I knew. My mother, too, of course. That wasn’t my reason for writing a memoir, but it has become one of my reasons for keeping going.

A few tips about working with photos:

1. My mother wrote on the back of many of the older pictures. Otherwise I’d be lost. If you have photos, make sure there is something to let other people know who the people are and, preferably, the date and location. I’ll be labeling all the scanned pictures.

2. Group the photos. e.g. I have all the photos of my mom’s family in one album, and in one computer folder. Makes it much easier to find what I’m looking for.

3. You can learn a whole lot studying the photos—the clothes, the setting, the looks on people’s faces, etc. Often, forgotten memories come back. It’s a bit like being a detective.

4. It’s great if you can ask someone else to confirm your memories. Which means, if you can, do this while the people who took the photos, or at least their contemporaries, are still around.

November 1, 2013

About the author 

N. J. Lindquist

N. J. Lindquist is the award-winning author of books, articles, short stories, and blog posts. She also edits and publishes the "Hot Apple Cider" anthologies. A former high school teacher, N. J. co-founded The Word Guild and teaches workshops for writers as well as speaking on various topics including creativity and leadership.

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