Thursday, October 02, 2008
Since my mother passed away I've been performing the sad but necessary task of going through her belongings. That includes several albums of photographs.
Here's a picture of my mother from 1921, when she was five years old. She's outside the one-room schoolhouse in Makinen where she received her first eight years of education.
I hadn't ever seen this picture before. I imagine it was taken by the teacher, because in my mother's cult, photographs would have been considered sinful, as leading to vanity. Very possibly she would have had to hide this picture from her parents.
I don't know why she's holding the stick, but she seems very proud of it.
One thing I've discovered is that in recent years my mother went through her photo albums, removed most of the pictures, and threw them away. This was no small amount of work--- these were old-fashioned photo albums, with the little corner holders glued to the page, and each photo would have had to have been carefully and deliberately removed.
Why do you suppose she did that? I doubt very much that there as a secret life she desperately needed to conceal. Or was it just that she could no longer remember the people in the pictures? Certainly I have pictures of people I can no longer recall.
My father, I recall, did something similar. He had a box with hundreds of pictures from the Second World War. At some point during his retirement, he put a number of them in an album, and tossed out the rest. What was he thinking?
Of course I've got thousands of photos myself, many of them in the form of slides. I have no intention of throwing them away, but I doubt they'd mean anything to anyone once I'm gone. I imagine that my executor, frustrated with days and days of going through my junk, would toss them without a thought. I suppose I could put them in some kind of digital archive, but the labor involved in scanning them all would be intense, and I doubt I'll ever get around to it.
A photo detached from its context becomes an exercise in composition, and most photos fail on that score. They're like leaves fallen from a tree, all of them more or less alike, carried away on the winds of time.
Morbid thoughts, late at night.