January 24, 2007

Photo Organizing Tips: Presentation is Only the Icing

Scrapbooking is a very popular hobby here in the United States. Surely you've seen stunning examples in your own family or group of friends. And who wouldn't appreciate a personalized scrapbook made for them by someone they love? What a beautiful, thoughtful gift! Scrapbookers are creative artists who have collectively raised the bar on what we consider a quality photo album.

But there's a dark side to this -- and it doesn't have anything to do with preservation...

I consulted with a client late last year who was sort of beating herself up about scrapbooking. She had made a vow to herself to deal with her photographs before the end of 2006. Here's what she said to me: "I feel like I'll be judged a bad mom if I don't transform all these photos into beautiful scrapbooks."

How on earth did this happen?

Please understand: I've got nothing against scrapbooking. For many people, it's a beloved hobby. For me, it's a nightmare. If there's such a thing as a"crafty gene" I can assure you that mine is damaged or missing entirely. And while I can recognize and appreciate good design, I can't seem to create it, much to my dismay. Add to that the fact that I can't seem to trim a photo correctly or set one down on a page without it coming out crooked, and you can see why I don't go on weekend-long scrapbooking retreats.

We owe scrapbookers a huge dept of gratitude for making so many presentation options available. Especially photo-safe options. The scrapbooking industry has literally held manufacturer's feet to the fire and demanded acid free materials. But no one should feel guilty if they prefer to use slip-in pages and plain 3-ring binders rather than a 12 color layout with embossed letters and a lovely translucent overlay. Presentation matters, yes. But don't let other people's elaborate designs prevent you from organizing, archiving and sharing your photos. At the end of the day it's the photos and the stories behind them that matter.

The Practical Archivists's Suggestions for NON-Scrapbookers:

  • Remind yourself before you start that the presentation is the icing, not the cake itself.
  • Choose the photos you love the most. The ones that stop you in your tracks. That make you grin, or cry. Whatever. The ones that really MEAN something to you.
  • Write down the stories behind your photos - the stories that will disappear after you are no longer here to tell them. I use Denis LeDoux's Photo Scribe method, which is designed specifically for people who are intimidated by writing. It's one of the 3 books I recommend to every family historian, see column on the left.
  • Regardless of your personal style, be sure to use only PAT-passed materials. See this article for details about what is and what is not safe to use.
  • Start with one album that chronicles you and your partner's lives together. If you have kids, start with an album about your lives together before kids.
  • Next, you can create one for each of your kids. Skip the baby pictures if you already have an elaborate baby book with pictures.
  • After that's done, make the "extra" scrapbooks for individual vacations, etc.

Two final thoughts:


Perfection Is the Enemy of the Good


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you! Because of this article, I've given myself permission to forgo the gluing, stamping, journaling, embellishing, matting of every photo I have! Seriously, the thought of all of those unfinished projects was like a cloud hanging over me! Now I'll only scrap the really stunning moments as you suggested.