What is the true value of a photograph? That's a pretty difficult question to answer. It's really in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? Certainly, there are iconic photographs that might sell for tremendous amounts of money. But for families, I think it can be a little more complicated.
I've included three old photos from my childhood in this post. Once you get past the 1980's flashback, it's clear that two of the snapshots are not at all in focus. The last was a portrait session that my parents plunked down their hard earned cash for. I'm sure my mom and dad would say that the professional photo is the most valuable. After all, we all got dressed up and they paid for it, so it's more valuable, right? I don't really see it that way.
The first photo represents a simpler time. We lived in a house in the country and I could roam around, catch bull frogs, eat watermelon and just be a goofy 7-year-old. The second photo is my sister and I and our beloved dog Puff. My parents got Puff a couple of months before I was born and she was my cherished companion for 12 years. We taught her to jump over hurdles, went on those bull frog expeditions and she was just basically the best dog ever. When she died, I was so grief stricken I had to be sent home from school. All of those memories flood through me when I look at that blurry photo.
I don't have any warm fuzzy feelings around the posed photo at all. I don't remember it being taken. It doesn't even really remind me of us as a family. My dad only wore a tie to church, to a funeral and, (wait for it)...picture day. Same thing with me in a dress. I was a jeans with holes in the knees tomboy. I remember how badly it hurt when my mom would french braid our hair for photos. That collar on my sister's dress looks like something that would have driven her nuts. Can you see where this is heading?
I wish that those snapshots were clearer. I wish I had more pictures of Puff playing with us. But as bad as those photos are technically, they mean so much more to me and I'd save them from a fire before the other one. That's where Documentary Family Photography really comes in for me. I strive to use my skill with a camera to give my own kids what I don't have. I feel like professional photographs of real life gives my family a gift of present and future. In the now, I get beautiful photographs that I can put on the wall and show off via social media. In the future, my children, their children, and their children's children will be able to bask in the memories of the things and people that meant so much to them. One story in a photograph can lead to others. I make these pictures with the hope that they'll preserve the things that are most cherished to them right now.
What about you? What makes a photograph valuable to you?
Watermelon on the front porch. 1980
My sister and I with our dog Puff. 1980
My family in front of a fake book case. I don't know when it was taken, but it looks like I'm around eight?