Pittsburgh Photographer: Down the rabbit whole I go... A journey in my family's archives

"If you don't think photos are important, wait till they are everything you have"

 A photograph of my great grandfather. Dated 1905!

A photograph of my great grandfather. Dated 1905!

 

I read this quote on Pinterest yesterday and it really struck a chord with me. I am a sentimental person and have always seen great value in family heirlooms, photographs and our collective memory. Luckily I am not the only one in my family. My maternal grandma has been building a collection of memories - photographs and stories, over the years that goes as far back as her own mother's memories of her family and childhood. Stories that sound magical and foreign to my modern day self, which makes them even more special. About 10 (or more) years ago, while she was still in very good health, she took a trip around the country and visited some distant relatives. I believe it was the last time she visited many of those people and places and she did it to fill in the gaps of what she knew about her family. Then she took to writing all of it down and lately - to putting all the family albums in order and labeling photos. I have never seen this memoir and have promised her over and over to help her digitalize it, as she fears her handwriting is getting hard to read. I am very lucky that my gran is also a wonderful story teller and has shared many of these stories with me over the years and I know for fact they are worth wiring down and preserving for my children to be able to read.

My gran is still with us, in good health and spirit, so I am a little ashamed to admit that I have been lazy about helping her with this work. I always told myself that there is plenty of time and while on this trip home I'm a little busy, maybe we'll get to it next time. In the mean time we moved over the Atlantic and my trips home became less and a lot busier then before. 

But my last trip home was a little different. Days before the end of last year my grandfather on my dad's side passed away, 4 short years after my grandmother, his wife, did. And I realized I knew very little about the life they lived before they came back to my home town when I was already in middle school. They rarely spoke about it and I rarely asked. I suppose they just don't have the chit-chatter gene that runs in my mom's family and of course you never really think about the time when people won't be around any more... until they aren't.

 Going through the 1920a while sipping on my coffee.

Going through the 1920a while sipping on my coffee.

 

So this January, while home to see my family, I asked to look at my grandparent's albums and oh was I surprised. See, I kind of knew my grandpa was a hobbyist photographer, but I never really gave it much thought, not even when I made the decision to make my passion my business. Yet now that I realize that my love for photography didn't just happen, that it was somehow rooted in my family history, I feel more at home and more connected. Actually he was the one to put my first camera in my hands - and old Exakta film camera.

 Photo source: Wikipedia.

Photo source: Wikipedia.

 

And since me and my grandfather didn't really spend time in lenglthly conversations about the past, I am so happy to see that at least it was all well documented. 

 Among the photographs, hundreds of postcards from places that have changed completely today.

Among the photographs, hundreds of postcards from places that have changed completely today.

 

Now as much as he was in to photographing his life, he wasn't so keen on labeling and organizing it, so going through his archives will take a little research and I might even need some help uncovering some of the places they visited . 

 For some of the newer photos I was able to find the negatives as well, but not too many.

For some of the newer photos I was able to find the negatives as well, but not too many.

 So many memories.

So many memories.