As most people know, my parents both passed away recently. We celebrated their lives and their love on March 4th which would have been their 73rd wedding anniversary. They filled the lives of others with their presence, always involved. As children we had a big vegetable garden, chickens, bees, fruit trees. We camped, lived life in the NW, mostly outdoors. When I think about where they both started and where they ended up, their life together makes sense.
My mother’s father worked for a logging company in the Pacific NW. Her family moved 16 times before she was a junior in high school, living in logging camps around the NW. At 16, she decided to finish high school in one place, and stayed with friends of the family in Morton, WA so she could do this. After high school she went to college in California which was interrupted by WWII, meeting my father and then having four kids who came in quick succession.
My father grew up on a farm in the middle of South Dakota. The farm, now thousands of acres, is still owned and worked by family members. At 15, Dad decided that he wanted to finish high school, which meant living 75 miles away from his family in Pierre. the nearest town and also the state capital. It took him an extra year to finish because he had to work to pay his room and board. Both of my parents were determined to get a diploma, both were avid readers, loved to try and do new things, They both knew that they were destined for lives different than their parents had. When they met during WWII, at Keyport, in Washington State where my dad was stationed, they fell in love immediately and were married within a few months.
Upon their passing, my siblings and I started to go through their things and found an incredible amount of photographs that documented every aspect of their lives as well as a huge archive of photographs of their childhoods taken mostly by their parents, in particular their mothers. It was not a surprise that so many photographs existed, it was a surprise that I had not seen so many. For both of them, when they turned 90, I collected many of their photographs and made books dedicated to each of their lives. My mother had also made photo albums for each of her children and grandchildren, culling out the best from the past. But beyond the albums, there was a giant black metal trunk full of images, boxes of seemingly random images and many envelopes full of negatives and prints.
Photography was always a very important part of what we did as a family. In the early 1960’s, Dad bought a Polaroid Land camera that was seemed like a miracle. Instant photography!! That summer we took hundreds of those images. Recently, I found a taped together polaroid of our house, and yard. It brings back memories of that summer, shooting anything and everything that came along.
After that summer, Dad got another polaroid that made beautiful rectangular images. Dad always had a camera with him; when I was about ten, I remember his mother, my grandmother Bertha telling me to always have a camera ready, loaded and at hand in case any thing “came up” that needed to be photographed. During most of my childhood, Dad had an old Argus 35 mm camera with which he made Kodachrome slides. Since photography was important, it is no surprise that I loved it at an early age. I was given a camera at the age of 10 for Christmas and took it everywhere. I only got one roll of film at a time, but when I shot that, there was always another roll ready. Each image was precious and important and I think this is the way that my parents felt about photography too. Dad kept up on all the latest inventions in photography and in his eighties acquired a computer, a printer and a digital camera. He loved printing his digital images, loved taking photographs with that little digital camera, thought it all amazing and miraculous.
This morning, I spent some time going through what may be the last major box of images. So many questions for both my parents, so many mysterious, funny, really well composed images. I am grateful to have grown up in such an environment, so rich in image making. So here is my thanks to both of them for passing on this love of taking a picture, for acknowledging the importance of it and for never getting rid of any images. Our personal history is intact and so wonderful to view.
I post this blog with a handful of images from their lives; taken by their mothers, themselves and by me. I have written several other blog posts on the publication of their 90th birthday books, and my Uncle Bob and Grandmothers involvement in photography as well.