This week my husband and I are in Connecticut for his little brother’s wedding. It’s a family affair. So it’s got me thinking a lot about family story. Photos have been coming out of the woodwork — photos of grandparents that have passed, and family members as babies and teenagers…

Here is a photo of the images that live on the family’s stairway.


Studio portraits don't tell the story of the family, they only focus on what everyone looked like at that time.

Studio portraits focus on what everyone looked like at that time.

This is a family that had their portrait done annually throughout the 1980s and 1990s at Olin Mills. They have quite a number of very well lit, clear, focused images of the family together, and of the kids as babies. But something struck me while looking at the ones that are up in the stairwell… Studio portraits don’t tell the story of the family.

You know nothing about what those kids’ personalities were at those ages. You don’t know what they liked to do, or what their silly face was. You don’t even necessarily know how they dressed, since everyone dressed up in a very specific way for the photos.

What it comes down to is that they only focus on what everyone looked like at that time. It’s just a reference to the whole person, to the whole family. It doesn’t even address the relationships between the family members.

Although these family pictures¬†are fun to look at, and giggle about hair styles and outdated clothing… and although you can remember small things like who had braces, or how much bigger one child was than the other (possibly), you are missing the most important details. You’re missing the emotion. You’re missing the story.

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