A year and a half ago, I lost my father. He was 96 and while, given his age, the loss was not unexpected, like the loss of any parent, it was, nevertheless, a very disorientating and distressing time. A few months after my father's passing, I was contacted by a cousin in Cumbria who had somehow, in researching her family history, come into possession of a series of old family photographs. Oh, yes please! (I have lived in England for 15 years but have only now started to make myself acquainted with the distant family of my grandfather...thos who remained here after his emmigration to Canada.) A small packet arrived from Cumbria and in its contents were a collection of photos, some dating back as early as 1910 of family members I didn't even know existed! How exciting for someone who loves old historical photographs! "Who is that? Is there a resemblance? Does she look like me? Oh she looks like my sister!" As I flipped through the browny tinted photos of ladies in Victorian dress and long lost uncles in their WW1 uniforms, I came across a photograph which instantaneously left me breathless and caused my throat to seize. I sat on the floor, surrounded by photos, my fingers trembling and holding a photograph I would have better prepared myself for had I known about it. It was of young man, taken in the 1940s, in Canada, handsome, suited and standing alongside two other very handsome young men. My Dad. This was someone I had never met, this young man. You see, my Dad became a father late in life and I joined in when he was in his late 50's. I have only ever known one elderly version of this man, (the elderly one, which embarrassed me so as a teenager). Here was quite another. I meet families regularly who tell me that they've never had a family portrait taken. I imagine that many people find that with the digital photography so accessible, their phone cameras so advanced and easy to use that the necessity for a professional portait is somewhat diminished. Most of us take photos of our children and loved ones almost everyday. We live in the "now" and don't think of that inevitable day when will leave our children behind. What will we leave them? Its lovely to have photos of them, but what they will want on that day is a photo of YOU. They will want that reminder of family life with YOU in it. A beautiful portrait is an attractive addition to your home, but that is far from its only purpose.
I had my father's portrait along with a family portrait of his parents and uncle from the 1910's framed and hung in my lounge. They are amongst me most prized possessions...the things I would run into a fire for. I frequently have wives and mothers tell me they are waiting until they "loose those extra few pounds" before they plan to have a photo session but that is something that will not matter to the people who will cherish your photos many many years from now....and they will...your children, your grandchildren and their children...they will cherish them.
(My Dad, on my fridge, as I remember him... musician, writer, philanthropist, puppet-maker, photographer, creative genius and general eccentric loony.)
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