Faded Memories

For me, it all started in our living room in Plainfield, New Jersey many many years ago. My Dad was the “photographer” in the family. I don’t mean he was a pro, just that he always carried the camera on our family vacations. 

There are many stories hidden in the photographs that are fading away in boxes. Each day they fade away more and more.

From time to time, we would have our special family slide show night. My mother would pop some popcorn and we’d all gather around the living room while Dad went through the mechanics of loading straight slide trays carefully making sure they were all upside down and reversed. He had a job that took him all over the world so I got to see wonderful images of far away lands. And Dad had some great stories whether they be about family or work and I just loved to hear him tell his tales. 

Your's truly and my Dad. I'm sure mother had some words for him.

Unfortunately, my Dad died just a few years after I was married. Mother passed away in 2005 and after she died the job of sorting through her household fell to her sons. I’m one of four. 

It was then that we realized that we lost far more than our mother. We lost so many stories and memories. As we uncovered boxes of slides and photographs we realized that we didn’t really know many of the stories that should accompany them. And to make matters worse, how do you divide up the family albums among four siblings?

As the photographer in the bunch, I volunteered to scan the prints, negatives, and slides and make digital images that could be shared by all. But, after weeks of scanning, editing and sorting I looked at the pile that remained and realized that I’d be dead and buried long before I ever got this job done. And, nothing personal, but sitting at a scanner does not thrill me. 

About that time I saw an add for a new service called Scan Cafe. For pennies per image, they would scan, do minor retouching and save each of the images. I had to try them. So, I boxed up a batch of images and sent them off. I guess I should have been worried but their customer service seemed very nice and so I just trusted them. 

When scanning prints, I would also scan the back of the print if there was any identifying information. But for you family historians, be aware that what is written on the back is only as good as the memory of the person writing it. We found several with inaccurate information. There were photos of me dated two years before I was born. 

It took a while but eventually I received a Scan Cafe box with all my originals and CDs with the scanned images. Wow, they were wonderful. Since then, I’ve put together many batches and now have a large family history library. Every brother, uncle, and cousin has access to the images which is so much better than having them fade away inside a box.

It seems that as you get older you begin to appreciate the real value of a photograph. Not the artistic value - as you can see here, our family photos are no award winners. But they are a connection to the people and places of which we are a product. They are a part of us. And, good or bad, I want to know more about the story of where I’m from. The crazy family that I call my own. 

Before it’s too late, take some time to share the photographs from your family with your own children. Tell them stories. And, better yet, write some of these stories down. They don’t have to be elaborate. Just captions in Lightroom will even help. But share the stories while you still can. 

Also, before they deteriorate too much, find your old family photos, slides and negatives and get them scanned. Digital files are so much easier to share. Once they are scanned, have your kids show them to Grandma and Grandpa and have them ask about the stories. Write them down. 

Unfortunately for many of us, we realize this at a funeral. For Laurent Martin, one of the founders of Scan Cafe, he realized it at the funeral of his grandfather. He started Scan Cafe in order to recover and share his family photos. Thank goodness he did because after my mother’s funeral I used Scan Cafe to do the same thing.   

Scan Cafe

Scan Cafe is a digital scanning service that will scan prints, slides, negatives, and even movies. The end result is a high resolution digital file ready for you to share. 

We have no relationship with this vendor, they are just very good at what they do. If you only have a few prints to scan, by all means, do them yourself. But if you want to scan any negatives or slides, it's just hard to beat the quality and cost of this service. Also, when you take on a project like scanning the family library of images you begin to hear this loud sucking sound as all your time gets sucked away. You've got better things to do.

Learn more about Scan Cafe from their website at www.ScanCafe.com.