When my aunt passed away earlier this year, I’d posted a few times about going through boxes upon boxes of old family photos. It was a fascinating, emotional journey. This image of my grampa’s photo envelope still pulls at my heart.
But something interesting happened when I posted these two portraits on Facebook on National Grandparents Day.
Someone posed a question in the comments section that provided me with food for thought. She asked if I thought that 50 years from now people will have the same emotional impact looking at selfies as we do from these photos. She also added her skepticism. My thought was, when images are all you have left, you treasure what you have — selfie or studio.
This question came to mind last night as I attended the wake of my friend’s father. I remembered the question and I realized that my answer was coming from the perspective of an emotional or familial connection with the subject.
My friend’s father was an Italian immigrant from a beautiful, quaint village in the mountains. He was considerably shorter than his sons-in-law and his grandsons were on pace to surpass him as well. He loved wine. He faithfully supported his grandkids in all of their sports and school activities. He took wonderful vacations with his family — and his travel companions increased with every grandchild. He was affectionate. A devoted family man. A good friend. He aged well and had a beautiful smile. In short, this man had a full life.
I didn’t know my friend’s father. I never met him.
I learned all of this about him through multiple photo displays and a video collage of his images. There was a nice mix of formal portraits and informal snapshots throughout. The images I enjoyed most, however, the ones from which I learned the most, were candid photos. And, yes…selfies. His formal sittings showed his beautiful smile and demonstrated the progression of him aging from a dark-haired, youthful man to an older, grey-haired grandfather. But his story, the stuff that mattered, was told in the informal photos. I know I would’ve like him.
While I do think that selfies can be excessive and narcissistic (no, we don’t need to see your daily workout selfie on Facebook) and informal candids don’t always show us looking great, I do believe that they hold value when it comes to preserving our stories.
Do I love the portraits of my grandparents posted above? Absolutely. I now have an image of what they looked like when they were young. But what do I love more?
They were sweethearts.
He loved me from the get.
This is what I need to know about my family’s history.
And this is what I want my future grandkids to know about their family.
They had fun. A LOT of fun. They weren’t afraid to be silly. They had beloved traditions and adventures. And they weren’t above the occasional selfie.