Photographers and the Meaning to Your Family’s Shoebox of History

Even today a family’s history is largely comprised of photographs. Just as it worked for us the camera was an integral part of our family. It was there at each of our birthday parties, school events, and anything and everything that had to do with family. It was my father who was the prime “moment taker.” He would load a fresh roll of film. We all said “Cheese” at the proper moment and smiled. There would be the click of the shutter, sometimes with a big blue flash bulb. And, in that split second another photographic masterpiece was created. In those days the Drugstore was the destination for processing. Within a few days a yellow envelope filled with our treasures would be passed around for all to view before being semi-retired in an old shoebox.

The primary camera of choice was a Kodak Bantam 828 protected by a deluxe leather case. When additional light was needed the Flash Holder Model B could be attached via a standard bracket. It used these wonderful big blue bulbs designed specifically for color photos or plain clear for black-and-white. We were told that the convenience and simplicity of Instamatic 126-cartridge cameras send the Bantam into an early retirement. Of course, we knew differently. During a family event held in the country my father accidentally sat down on a flash bulb previously used. The glass cut through his pants requiring first aid. While standing with pants lowered on grandmother’s porch a Band-Aid was placed on his derriere. Attentive drivers honked their car horns as they drove by adding humiliation to hurt.

Mother’s role was not only that of a good photographer in her own right. She was also the one who carefully documented the date, event, and those in the photo. Without this information, coupled with the passage of time, there’s really no way anyone would be able to reliably document family history in its entirety.

Film hasn’t been available for the cameras used so long ago in our family. But, the stories that come from those photographs were a timeless gift that has been passed down. Virtually all the film has remained in a surprisingly good condition. A few of the prints have developed “spots” due to both age and storage conditions. Nonetheless, every photograph regardless of technical quality has been scanned in another step to ensure preservation. (These family photographs filled two big footlockers.)

Even though today film isn’t available for that special Bantam 828 there are the longstanding stories it told.  Without it these boxes of memories that would have otherwise never been made.

Therefore, don’t let a day go without photography being a part of your life. It might sound trivial today. But, let photography bond that special family experience. You won’t regret it and neither will your children or your children’s children. The meaning to your family’s history is in your hands and in your shoebox.