Family photographs are important


I’ve posted before about the importance of wedding photography. I’ve also posted before about the importance of keeping those photographs safe. But today I want to write about something in general – why I believe that family photographs are important.

You’d be forgiven that, being a photographer, I have an agenda for writing this post. But I don’t. I’m not going to be using this to promote using a professional photographer for weddings or even family photos. No. This is about photographs in general. The most important photographs. Those of your family. The people who mean the most in the world to you.

I read years ago the results of a survey where people were asked what one item they’d save if their house caught on fire. The overwhelming choice was … their photographs.

It used to be the case that we’d get the prints after the films had been processed and then put them into albums. I remember my Mum having loads of albums all neatly lined up in the bookshelf from family holidays. Nowadays we’re more likely to have those photos stored on our mobile phones, or lurking somewhere on the hard drive of the computer. People don’t seem to print their photos as much as we used to. They don’t put them into frames and have them in their home. It’s a shame, because photos deserve to be on display, not tucked away somewhere in a folder on a hard drive.

A photograph, any photograph, captures a unique moment in time. Something that will never, ever, be recreated. You can set it up and do it again, but it won’t be the same. That fraction of a second captured by the camera, for posterity.

Photos of your family are important. As your children grow up. Your parents get older. Memorable moments. Family holidays. Funny moments. The good times. Time moves on. Fashion and hairstyles change. The importance of those photos will probably diminish, overtaken by the latest family events. It may be tempting to get rid of some them, but don’t. Because one day, sadly, those photos and your memories will be all that remain.

7 months ago I was “just” a wedding photographer. Capturing those precious moments from that very special day in couples’ lives. Working my way through the peak season and looking forward to some time off over the Winter. Then, in late August, we found out that my partner had breast cancer. But it was worse than that, it was stage 4, which meant it had spread to other parts of her body. There was no cure. No hope. The outcome was inevitable.

Over the 20 years we’d been together she had a real aversion to having her photo taken. I mean a REAL aversion! She’d turn away from me if I pointed the camera in her direction. We joked and laughed about it. I said “it’s ridiculous, I spend my life photographing people, recording their special moments and I’ve hardly got any photos of you!”. With the news that she had cancer our lives were turned upside down. If lucky, we’d possibly have a couple of years together. We talked about photos and I persuaded her to let me take some as she made her journey through treatment.

Over the coming months I took photos whilst she was having chemo. On days out. Saturday morning coffee. Working from home on her laptop. Nothing posed, nothing artistic. Just capturing her during good times and bad. Reality. I think she almost came to enjoy the experience. Well, almost!

Then, after the chemo ended we found out that the cancer had spread even further and that she had only a couple of weeks to live. She passed away a week ago.

As I try to make sense of her loss and come to terms with my grief I have only my memories and those precious photographs. I’m so glad that I persuaded her to allow me to take them. Without those, I’d just have my memories of her lovely smile.

So you can see why I think that photographs are important. Photos of people. When I was younger and on holiday I concentrated on taking photos of the places I visited, not the people who were with me. With the benefit of hindsight (and my experience of capturing the emotions of a wedding day) I know that the people in our lives are far more important.

Where am I going with this? Well, to implore you to keep those family photos safe. Copy them from your phone onto your computer. Copy them from the computer onto a USB or portable hard drive. Keep them safe. Keep a copy somewhere else, just in case anything happens to your home. Print them. Put a few up on your wall. Make up a photobook.

Why? Because one day, and no-one knows when that day will be, all that you will have of your loved ones are the memories and those photographs …….

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Ian Hamilton - ianH photography - 07575 567408