Upstairs in my house on a shelf in the front bedroom I have a cardboard box full of old black and white photographs. When my mother died I found these photographs hidden away in a drawer along with newer colour photos of my children that I had given her and photos my sister had sent of hers.
Grandparents are supposed to be proud of their children and grandchildren. They are meant to display the photographs on mantlepieces, sideboards, grand pianos in some cases. My mother seemed to hate photographs. She loathed any of herself and placed no value on photos of her family. They all ended up in the same place. Shoved into a plastic carrier bag and then pushed out of sight along with a jumble of old bills, letters and cards.
Going through them I find I know so little about the people and the places, yet there are some, like these here, which I must have talked about with her.
I am the eldest of three and I like to think that my mother was happy to have her first baby. Here she is sitting on a step with a friend and they have swapped babies. I am on the right trying to grab the other baby’s rattle while the other baby seems much more interested in whoever is taking the picture. When she talked about this photo my mother said that her friend’s baby was rather placid. It makes me laugh when I look at the next photograph and remember my mother telling me that I was highly delighted when the dog jumped up into the pram we were sharing.
Who was this friend and her baby ? I have no idea. She is not my mother’s best and long term friend Joan Bird who apparently, when her first baby was born, sent a card announcing “The baby bird has arrived” which I think is rather nice.
My friend’s mum also hides or gets rid of all photos. I don’t know why, but she doesn’t see the point in them. My family is the opposite and, like me, spend hours staring at photos. I find it very sad when I find old photos in bric-a-brac shops, where there mustn’t have been anyone left to inherit them. I worry about this in my own family. What does your life story mean when it all ends up in a box in a shop for strangers to see? Perhaps it’s a fear of this situation that prompts some people to hide the photos in advance – to take away their meaning before other people can. Maybe it gives some control over what happens when you’re not here.
I enjoyed reading your comment. Like you my family love all our photographs.
I agree with you that it is probably a mixture of fear and a need to control reality that makes some people hide photos. For some people it might also be sadness that time has passed.
I find it very poignant to look at photos of my daughters when they were small because I was too rushed to fully appreciate how lovely they were. Part of the reason for Photograph Stories is so that my daughters won’t find a box full of unexplained pictures.
And yes, old photos in bric-a-brac shops are very sad.