After my father passed away earlier this year, I took possession of his priceless family photo albums. These were photos that he had obtained over the years from his parents. Some of them showed his parents when they were teenagers back in Hungary in the early part of the 20th century. Others were of him and his brothers during their youth in Brooklyn. Some included their young wives, including my mother.
I knew that these photos were special and needed to be shared. I was a little overwhelmed with tying up the loose ends of my father’s passing, and these albums sat for several months in a shopping bag in the corner of my living room where I have my office. Eventually I got tired of looking at the clutter and made some decisions about how to proceed.
The first thing I did was remove all the photos from the album. My father had marked in the photo albums identifying information about some of the photos — who was in them, and what year they were taken. I transferred that info to the back of each photo. The next thing I did was to sort them. Photos that focused on one person were separated from those with multiple people. I made a pile for each of my father’s three brothers, plus a couple of other relatives whose survivors I was in touch with. Then I sent pile of photos off to each of the appropriate cousins. They were thrilled to have these old photos of their parents when they were young! I even sent a package overseas to my father’s one remaining brother, who lives in Europe. His wife told me was really touched to see them.
The next phase of the project was to share the photos that had multiple people in them, or that were of general interest to everyone, such as the photos of my grandparents and great-grandparents in the old country. I decided to have them professionally scanned. I sent them to ScanDigital (www.scandigital.com) to be digitized and stored on a CD. I sent the package in early August, and they finally sent me back the photos and the photo disk in October! But they communicated with me throughout the process, and the final result was very high quality.
I did a little bit of research about the best way to share digital files. I wanted my cousins to be able to view the photos in high definition, and to print them if they wanted. I also wanted to ensure that the photos would remain secure. I decided to share them via Dropbox. I have been using Dropbox for a long time to share files, but my main concern has always been that it is too easy for a user to drag a file out of Dropbox and onto their own hard drive, and then it’s no longer available for anyone else to view. I discovered that Dropbox has a feature that enables you to share just a link to the folder, which let’s others view the files but not remove them. I tested it out and seemed exactly what I needed.
I copied the 120 photos to Dropbox and shared the link with my cousins a few days ago. The photos have been getting good reviews! I was also able to share via e-mail the identifying information about who was in those old photos taken in Hungary before my grandparents emigrated to the United States almost 100 years ago.
Many of my clients have photo projects sitting in corners of rooms, and you may have one as well. Here are some of the things I learned as I progressed through my project:
- It is time-consuming. Don’t expect to get it done overnight
- Not all photos are created equal. Throw away blurry photos, unflattering photos, and photos of people that no one can identify.
- Don’t agonize over every decision. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
- It felt great to get these photos into the hands of my cousins. You’ll feel great, too, to get these photos out of a box and into a viewable format.
I know that my father would be pleased to know that these photos are bringing joy. After all, that’s why we take them, isn’t’ it?