This COVID-19 year has been a shocker on many levels. And I am one of the lucky ones who has not been affected anywhere near like others. However, it has got me thinking about some life lessons, some ‘Lights in the Darkness’. This reflection has come on the back of what I thought would be a rather straightforward activity – scanning other people’s photos and designing their photobooks. Here are 6 lessons from 2020 I’ve learnt or been reminded of:
1. The importance of RELATIONSHIPS
Often I am moved by looking at people’s photographs. A picture from 1939 of a grandfather with his granddaughter; him with a big smile on his face and her looking up to him in sheer delight. Or the 85 year old man with tears in his eyes reflecting on the memory of his younger brother, who died aged 2. “I think about him every day”, he told me. I can guarantee that today’s ‘selfies’ won’t be in tomorrow’s photobooks. Unless they include photos of others as well.
2. The importance of IDENTITY
There’s something grounding about finding your roots. Often people look at old photos and don’t know who the people are. It has been an honour to help others join the dots and assist them to research their past. It’s not just ‘nostalgia’. It’s knowing ‘where did I come from?’ and ‘why am I the way I am?’ One man in discovering his Anglo-Indian heritage, not only found out that he was as much ‘Indian’ as ‘English’, but that some long held assumptions that he’d held about life and the universe had actually been passed down through the generations.
3. The importance of CREATING MEMORIES
Whether its that place that you go to with your family every year on holidays, or that trek you did with a friend through South America, or the war your grandfather fought – it’s a powerful thing to share significant events with others. There is a bond that cannot be broken that comes by doing regular activity with others, a special shared adventure or a mutual hardship. We might not be able to travel overseas right now (or even across the state border!) but there is great value in finding creative ways to build shared memories with family and friends.
4. The importance of STORY
It’s been fascinating sitting with people in their 80s and have them unfold their past to me, often triggered by a photo that I have scanned and brought to life. It might be a Kodachrome slide from 1955, or a tiny little black and white print from 1945 that can be viewed properly for the first time. Often the elderly struggle with their memory, but in connecting pictures with story they are able to access memory and pass on critical information and story to the next generation.
5. The importance of LEGACY
I have done a number of legacy related projects for people. Meaning, the person has now passed, but the child or grandchild wants to capture their history in text and pictures. It reminded me of the importance of leaving a legacy and living a life that is worth others remembering. The best legacy I can leave is investing in the lives of others.
6. The importance of TAKING PHOTOS
Sounds obvious, but for the last 100 years we’ve had the privilege of being able to take candid snaps. These can then be stored and shared. So cull what’s meaningless and give the next generation the gift of your story through words and pictures.