by Carol A Westbrook
I came across an old photo from about 1915, which had the names, "Anna, Rose, Mother" penciled on the back. The photo demonstrated that my grandmother, Anna, had a sister, Rose, which was also the name of the grandmother of a newly discovered DNA relative. We were second cousins–and a new branch of the family was discovered! I was pleased to find this old picture that had been kept for so long in a box in the attic.
How much we treasure our old family photos! They bring us our forebears, as well as old memories. But photos do more than preserve family memories. Since the beginning of civilization we have relied on permanent images to document lineage, leadership, historical events, wars, battles, and, of course, the news of the day. These relationships reinforce the foundation on which society is built.
Before photos, we had hand-painted portraits, sculptures, carvings and tomb paintings for these vital functions. These media were long lasting but not always accurate, not to mention difficult. Photography made it so much easier.
The invention of photography was truly a revolution, because it made permanent records available to everyone. The ruling class no longer had a monopoly on their memories, or on how history was to be interpreted.
Photography was invented by Daguerreotype in 1839, but it wasn't until Kodak introduced the Brownie camera in 1901 that it was available to all. Technology evolved rapidly, from the simple, instant Polaroid, to complicated single-lens reflex cameras with lenses, filters and flash attachments. Film photography allowed us to make slides and home movies. Life was full of Kodak moments, and we tried to capture them all.
We took pictures. We put them in albums to share with friends; we hung them on walls; we documented births, graduations, weddings and everything in between. And we kept them for posterity in a box in the attic. Haven't you noticed that your most vivid memories are the ones that were captured on home movies and photographs? Mine are.