What is the value of a professional portrait? Is it just the paper on which it’s printed? Or is it the memories enshrined on that paper or canvas that you enjoy each time you look at it? I would hazard a guess that memories win out every time.
Otto de Gruyter family portrait in Turner home
The first thing you’ll see when you enter our home is a framed portrait of my great grandparents, Otto de Gruyter and Rhoda Jane Hill, with their three children, my granddaddy Olen and his two sisters, Eunice and Iona. The portrait was made around 1909. It’s a formal pose, perhaps a little stiff, which was characteristic of the period when film was slow and portrait subjects had to hold still for several seconds.
I remember this portrait sitting on an easel in Aunt Eunice and Iona’s home when we visited, the same house where they grew up. When they died in the 1970s my mother inherited the portrait. She had a copy negative made and gave copies to her six brothers and sisters and to their children. When she died in 2001 the portrait passed down to me. It took a while, but we eventually made room for it in our home.
This family portrait is much more than a mere piece of paper. The photographer’s name is long lost. What’s important is the connection made across five generations, from my great grandparents to my children. The portrait is one of the few physical objects that makes that connection, and that makes it real, more than bits of linen tucked away in a chest for safe keeping. Seeing this portrait triggers memories of stories I heard as a young man of my great-grandfather immigrating from Germany to central West Virginia with his brother, of his time as an itinerant clock and watch repairman going from house to house, and of establishing a storefront jewelry store that was operated by three generations.
Yes, this mere piece of paper, hanging on our wall in an old and somewhat battered frame, is a treasury of memories.
When you’re ready to have your family photographed, think of the memories you’ll be placing in your own frame, the stories you’ll tell your grandchildren, and the stories their children will pass down to their children when the time comes. You don’t want to wait too long to have that important portrait made.
And if you think you just want a digital file, remember how fast technology changes and how temporary and fragile digital files are. Will your grandchildren be able to enjoy that DVD?
Give me a call at 360-671-6851 to discuss the legacy you’ll leave in your heirloom family portrait. Do it now, and plan for a summer session.