Thursday, January 27, 2011

More About the Photos

Red Scarf Day, 2010, Oil on Panel, 18"x14"

Well, somehow January has almost completely flitted right by without me even once getting to my easel. I should be embarrassed to admit that, especially after I posted all my grand plans for the coming year, but somehow I'm not. I have a busy year coming up and I know that I will be completely swamped soon enough. Anyway, it's not like I have been doing nothing; I have been lining up a few new projects (will announce those as they become official), my girls have a crazy sports schedule and there has been a lot of driving and shoveling snow and attending basketball games. I have also taken some extra time each day to read more books, which I have really enjoyed.

I finally finished sorting the reference photos yesterday and that whole thing turned out to be SO overwhelming. First of all, I didn't realize just how many boxes of them I had collected, geez. I must have thousands of photographs! I should not be allowed to get obsessed with things. Heh, like THAT'S even possible. Secondly, sorting them turned out to affect me emotionally and I really could only work on them for brief periods before getting overwhelmed. I kept finding myself thinking about all these people and their lives, then moved on to think about how many stories and lives that there are in America and then in the whole world. Way overwhelming. Did I already say that?????

I also broke one of my rules of the 'People You Know' project. I had initially decided not to look for anybody whose pictures I found so that I could have to freedom to do whatever I wanted with the images. However, a few years ago I found a huge box of photos that traced the courtship, marriage and family life of one specific family. I have already used many of these photos for several of the portraits that I did last year in Vermont (see above) and as I began sorting I decided to keep the whole group of family pictures together. The photos are wonderful; they portray a classic 50's family filled with holidays, train sets, boys wearing cowboy hats, kids in the pool, in Boy Scouts, in the choir, the band and eventually posing with their prom dates and then graduating. As I looked through all of them I realized that I HAD to know what happened to the family, what they did, how the kids turned out, etc. I did some googling but the last name is rather common so didn't have much success with that. Finally though, I came across a Christmas letter written by the mother which gave me a few clues and I found the oldest son.

I debated for a few days about contacting him, because I knew doing so would change the whole direction of what I hoped to do with their photos, but finally I just couldn't stand it so I scanned one of the photos and sent 'D' an email. He responded rather quickly and we ended up talking on the phone. He was very nice, puzzled as to how I ended up with a big box of his family photos (I think that his mother had sent all these photos to her parents over the years and after they died, the box ended up in some sort of estate sale and then ended up for sale on ebay by an antiques dealer) and when it sounded like he didn't really have very many of his childhood photos, I ended up telling him that he really should have the photos, not me. I did ask him if I could scan some of them for use later on (he agreed to let me do that) and also described an idea I had about a project concerning his particular family images. D was actually very interested in that and after exchanging a few more emails, we decided to collaborate on the project over the coming year or so. He told me a little bit about his family members, just enough to keep me from completely busting open with curiosity and we decided that at some point in the spring we will get together in person so I can give him the box of photos and also to discuss the project further.

D should have the photos and I know that I did the right thing by offering to give them to him. And even though he is being VERY generous in allowing me to scan as many of them as I want, I still find myself feeling incredibly sad about not having the original photos. A combination of many reasons; how I like to have things, how I love to look through the actual photographs, feel the edges, the weight of the paper, the creases, read the notations on the back. It turns out that the tactile aspect of the photographs is a more important aspect of the "People You Know' project that I had originally thought.

So I was right about contact changing the direction of this series and while this is looking like it will be better and more fulfilling, I am not going to risk it again. I have two other family photo lots on hand, families that I am SO curious about but I am just going to put all that crazy-bursting-curiosity-energy into the paintings from now on.

Well, ok, I MIGHT do a little bit of googling but there will me NO actual contact!

11 comments:

Pam Holnback said...

What a fascinating story! Can't wait to see what the collaboration becomes. And, those other families. Just set then aside and after Ds project, you ay feel that it's ok to know the people in the photos. You don't have to decide anything at his point!

Cheryl McCarley said...

Great story...I can almost see the pictures! And yes, you did the right thing. I too can't wait to see what kind of collaboration it is. I know that "giving" gives back and I'm sure you'll find out and want to give the other pictures back, if you can.

Natalya Aikens said...

very cool! looking forward to seeing what is collaboration is all about!

Kim Hambric said...

I love knowing that these old photographs have a home to go to.

I am enthralled with Red Scarf Day.

magpie said...

Wonderful story - truly inspiring. it gives profound meaning to your work and gives back a piece of the past to D. Look forward to seeing how the project develops. i love red scarf lady.

Happy Little Trees Studio said...

Thanks for sharing! Can't wait to see more!

janet said...

You did a good thing.

Christie said...

I think stories like this are why I have you under "inspiring artists" in my blog . . .

SKIZO said...

WonderfulWorkGoodCreations:)

Gary Nylander said...

Really nice story !

joanell said...

I somehow stumbled onto your blog. I collect photos of the 1930's, give or take a decade. I have my "woman's" project. I look for people, mainly women, mainly standing doing something I find interesting. I have had the privilege of looking through friends family photo albums and have been allowed to scan. I am convinced we are all one family, we all have the same type of photos: at the beach, camping, Easter Sunday - that sort of thing. Your mission makes going to estate sales in senior communities more interesting - the shoe boxes of misc. stuff. thanks -