How lucky we are to have these photographs, these snapshots of history…
A few days ago a posted a snapshot my grandmother had taken of my mother as a girl in the 1950’s. Here is a snapshot of my grandmother, taken by my great-grandmother, Emma, in 1918, when my grandmother was 7 years old. My grandmother is sitting second from the left. I imagine what life would have been like for Emma, moving with her family to various places her husband had been promised opportunities, farming land that was sometime fertile and sometime not, and never letting that camera out of her hands.
I just made up a word: hereditics. Meaning the politics of heritage. I don’t mean politics like laws and bills and the like, no, I mean politics as in “the total complex of relations between people living in society.”
That’s what this blog is partly about. You see, in 1959, my grandmother, Grace, became a news reporter in the Columbia Basin. In those days, reporters were their own photographers, and my grandmother toted around a Rolleiflex K4 and used a 4×5 camera lent to her by one of the papers she worked for taking pictures of the Columbia River Irrigation Project, traffic accidents, community officials and whatever else was to make the pages of the weekly and dailies she worked for. She also ran a portrait studio, and spend much of her life taking photographs of her children, the farm she worked with her husband, and anything else that happened across her path.
Before that, in 1911, her mother, my great-grandmother, Emma, bought a Kodak pocket folding camera that took postcard sized photographs. The camera used 122 film, and traveled from Salt Lake City (where my great-grandmother lived) to Alberta, Canada, to Seattle, WA and everywhere in-between. Emma drug that camera around with her the entire second half of her life, taking photographs of her husband, children, the Canadian prairie, and whatever else she could find.
And prior to that, Emma’s father, my great-great-great grandfather, Christian, a minister, was trained as a publisher in Norway, and ran a small paper in Ballard, WA. He rented presses and spent hours hunched over setting type and running the machines. Although he had trained Emma in the art of the press, she must have considered herself a lady and took the road of housewife, instead of publisher.
What does this all have to do with me? Well, I hold my BFA in photography, and currently work in print production. I have been shooting with my grandmother’s Rollieflex for 10 years and have also recently acquired my great-grandmothers Kodak folding camera (which is still in working order and has my first test roll housed in the back) and many of my great-grandmothers and my grandmothers negatives, slides and prints.
I am beginning a new path in my work. Sorting through these slides, these stories. Trying to make sense of my heritage and my passion for communicating through art. If you would like to join me in my journey, here is where it starts.
And I’ll wait for my new word to make it into Merriam-Webster.