Posts Tagged ‘photographs and memories’

The Old-Fashioned Way of Remembering – Memorial Portraiture

Many centuries ago, the Celts believed that their late relatives and friends have gone to a better place and marked their funerals with rich feasts and a lot of laughter. The Romans buried important members of society under roads and paths, because they believed that many people passing over their remains is a sign of honour and respect.

In the medieval fantasy series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, the members of House Stark receive their own stone statue in the catacombs of the castle after they are gone, while the Tully House follows an ancient ceremony of setting the remains of the deceased on fire with the help of flaming arrows in the middle of the river.

The scholars of Jordan College in Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’ have another interesting ritual – the skulls of the deceased are preserved in special underground vaults and their ‘demons’ are represented by golden coins.

Indeed, the ways of remembering practiced in the real and the imaginary worlds vary dramatically and change over time. And while some ideas of remembering may appear shocking to us, it is useful to be acquainted with the different options of maintaining the connection, letting go and preserving memories. One really interesting way of remembering, which is not too popular now but was often used in America and Europe in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, was the memorial portraiture, also known as post-mortem photography.

In 1839, the invention of the daguerreotype made it possible for many people to have their pictures taken quickly and at an affordable price (in contrast to the costly and slow painted portraits). And while many people took advantage of the invention of photography and made sure to have photos of memorable events, a new application of the technology was quickly invented and adopted – Memorial Portraits. The families of deceased people often hired photographers to take the photo of a family member who had just passed away and the resulting pictures were their only visual memory of this person.

The interest of post-mortem photography soon motivated the photographers to discover different methods of representation. Indeed, some pictures showed the deceased person in their coffin, but there were many situations when the man behind the camera tried everything to make the model look as alive as possible. If you browse through this gallery of memorial portraits, you will see that some people look absolutely alive and you wouldn’t have guessed the nature of the photo if you didn’t know what you are going to see. Other photographs tried to arrange the photo in a way that would convince us the model is sleeping – especially when it came to babies or small children. They would usually hold a favourite object of theirs – a doll or a teddy bear, or even a pet! – to make the photo more realistic.

At one point, post-mortem photography became so popular that deceased pupils and students were included in collective photos of the class or the school. They were kept standing with the help of special tools that supported them, and later the photograph retouched the pictures to make them look alive. In this 9GAG post you can see some of the different techniques used by the photographers when shooting a memorial portrait.

Later in the 20th century, post-mortem photography started to lose its popularity. Indeed, when browsing the old photos, you can see how hard it was for family members to pose with their deceased relatives, but it also seems that they found the whole process natural, maybe even necessary for them to remember a child, a spouse, a sibling who ceased to be. If offered such service by a funeral agency today, we would probably react in a different way and will consider this a strange, shocking and unnatural process. Still, back in its day, post-mortem photography was one of the old-fashioned ways of remembering – it helped people get over their pain and preserve a fond memory of someone they had lost – and that is all that matters.

Don’t Forget Your Camera Over Christmas And New Year

When your family and friends get together over Christmas and the New Year it is the perfect time for creating some great memories.  Therefore, don’t forget your camera over Christmas so you can capture those memories as they happen.

Taking group pictures of the whole family with the different generations from grandparents or maybe great grandparents and then all the way down to the grandchildren or even the great grandchildren is sure to provide lasting memories.

Another fantastic picture to capture is on the morning of Christmas when the tree is fully decorated, lit up with all the lights and surrounded by the unopened presents left by Santa on Christmas Eve.

Christmas lunch or dinner is another opportunity to take a great picture as everyone is around the table enjoying each other’s company while eating the fabulous food.

Also, New Year celebrations are another time to capture some great images, whether it is family and friends around the barbeque or even pictures of firework celebrations that will bring in the New Year.

These are just some ideas so don’t forget your camera over Christmas and New Year as you may miss some great opportunities to capture some everlasting images.

Memory Box

I always love it when I am sitting around a table with my family and friends reminiscing about the past.  Most of the memories relate to some special event such as a wedding, party, school days or a special time that I shared with people I love.

Sometimes the stories differ depending on who is telling them and at times some of the details may not always be accurate, but that is the fun part of memory.  Even better is being able to get out photos, an old dress, maybe some old jewellery or a memento that can help with the memory and the story.  Maybe letters, old war medals or even an old teddy bear or doll from your parents or grandparents are able to bring back fond memories.

Keeping a memory box for your kids can be fun and you may include their first tooth, a lock of hair or even a picture they may have painted.  Keeping school reports may bring back memories of old friends during their growing years, maybe pictures they painted or even poems or stories that they wrote.  The memory box would then make a unique gift when they have graduated, got married or reached a milestone age.

A memory box is a great way to keep the memories safe, and because you can retain items that relate to a special person, it allows you to keep the memories alive.  Why not start you memory box now?

Watch The Family Grow

If you have children, you will know how fast they can grow. And it is almost impossible to cherish every moment as life, schedules and deadlines often get in the way. Regular annual photographs are a great way to build a story of your family.

Taking photographs and capturing your memories is getting easier and cheaper as technology progresses. No longer do we need to be concerned about the cost of developing, only to be dismayed by the quality of the photographs. And nor do we need to be worried about our photographs fading over time as digital photographs can last forever if stored correctly. Photograph books allow for easy capturing of a year in time and taking annual photographs will enable you to showcase your lives together.

As I was browsing the internet I came across a number of families who had been taking annual photos of themselves since the 70s with fantastic results, two of which are listed below.

• Since the 1970s the Goldberg’s take annual headshots of the family members to see how they change each year.

• Here 4 sisters have been photographed together since 1975.

These examples are not the classic happy family shots you would imagine but rather just natural shots of the family together showing how they age and grow year after year. What an achievement!

Build up your memories with regular photo shoots and create your own piece of history.

What Does Memory Mean To You?

There is a beautiful children’s book called Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge written by Australian author, Mem Fox. Published in 1984, it is one of her best-selling books and is a favourite amongst children and adults alike.

It tells the story of a young boy who overhears his parents talking about the lady next door who is losing her memory, so he asks them, “what is a memory?”

His father tells him a memory is something you remember, but being a curious boy he continues to ask other people the very same question, “what is a memory?” He is told a memory is something warm, something from long ago, something that makes you cry, something that makes you laugh and something as precious as gold.

The boy goes looking for items that he thinks represents these things and gives them to the lady and as she looks at them, she starts to remember things. The book ends “and the two of them smiled and smiled because Miss Nancy’s memory had been found again by a small boy who wasn’t very old either.”

In a very simple and sweet way, this book is a perfect explanation of what a memory is.

What is your special memory? It might be something of very special significance in your life such as your wedding or the birth of your children. It could be something that happened yesterday or when you were a child. Often objects hold special memories for us like photos, but even something like a smell or a particular song can bring back memories of a special time in your life.

We would love to hear from you – what is your special memory?

Photographs and Memories

Many songs and poems have been written about memories and the feelings they bring with them. One of the main threads that runs through them is the connection between ‘things’ and memories. Keepsakes, photographs and special objects create a really tight connection between the past and the emotions, dont they? I’m sure you have special photographs and keepsakes that you have tucked away for safe keeping.

I thought you might like this song. It’s an old one from the early 80′s and it’s called Photographs and Memories. It’s a simple but moving song by Jim Croce. You know me, a sentimentalist at heart. Listen to it and remember those people who have been special in your life.