Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday From The Collectors - September 26



I love telling stories with photographs. And I love creating custom heirloom books at GOOD STOCK, that are the end product of those photographic stories. As footnoteMaven has so graciously given me the opportunity to talk with you today, I thought I’d share some of the best ways I’ve found to tell family stories with photos.

I love photos – especially the old ones. But for me, old photos don’t necessarily have to be generations old – just old enough to convey a different time, a different place, a sense of nostalgia, or a memory.

There are many ways to tell a story through a photo. Sometimes it takes nothing more than the photo itself. I was recently moved to tears looking at a series of black and white images taken by a photographer of her aging mom and dad going about their daily life at home. I don’t know this photographer personally, and I certainly don’t know her parents, but I do know these photographs contained something special – an absolute magic to them. The photos alone told the story.

But sometimes, it’s a few photos mixed together in the right order, or a certain grouping of photos. Other times, the right words alongside a photograph can make all the difference.

Here are some simple techniques I love for storytelling with photos.

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Repeating Photos

The concept here is to take photos from the same event or time period at regular intervals, and simply put them next to each other – in a book, on a wall, or as a collage like this one. Here’s a simple personal example – my brother, Santa, and me.

This same idea works well with birthdays, school photos, holidays, and even family portraits. Here is an incredible family portrait project where the family has taken portraits each June 17 since 1976. ABC News aired a segment on this project which can be viewed in this video.

A more realistic approach to this concept (unless you’ve already started this once-a-year family portrait ritual!) is to just group together any portraits you can find of a relative over the years. It is so neat to watch their features, hairstyles, and attire change. Here is a series of portraits of one man, from youth to old age, which I used in a family ancestry book.

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Photo In A Photo

Last year a client showed me the first daguerreotype I’d ever seen. It wasn’t in the greatest condition, but it was striking. What was most striking, though, is that this young woman sitting for her portrait was holding another photo, which my client also had in her possession. All my client knew was that this relative must have been holding an image of a beloved. And to me it seems the white handkerchief implies she is grieving over this person.

Photo In Photo

Here’s a more modern interpretation of the photo in a photo concept. I love this photo from photographer Kate Hutchinson’s “Irish Grandmother” series, of her grandmother holding a portrait of herself. I especially love that this photo is taken in the grandmother’s home, so you get a sense of who she is today.

The modern version.

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Photos with Words

And more often than not, photos need words to tell their story properly. There’s the obvious way to do this – photo captions – but often times much more text is needed. This is the majority of the work I do with family ancestry books and memoirs. I am a huge fan of words – especially the right words, in the right amount, in the right place.

Here are some examples of photos I incorporated with words to tell a story.

This is a well-worn, beautiful photo of a woman named Anna.


And this is how we used this image in an heirloom book to tell the photo’s full story. You see, this was the photo her husband James carried in his pocket of Anna while he served in World War II. I overlaid a beautiful love letter James wrote to Anna, and included a caption at the bottom of the page explaining James had carried this photo in his pocket.

When I incorporate photos with lots of text, it is all about visual balance and proper placement of the photo within the text. Here is a page from a memoir I recently did. We did not caption the photo, because in this case the headline and subhead (Los Angeles, California/ 1940-1950) provide enough context.

The other technique I love to use is call-out text. I take a sentence or two of the text, enlarge it, and place it on top of, or alongside, a photo. This is a great way to connect the story and the photo, and also provides a quick visual first-read when there is lots of text on a page.

Here’s a page with call-out text, plus a photo caption at the bottom (though a bit hard to see at this size – the actual page is 10x10”!).

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Here Are Examples of My Custom Heirloom Books
Using Some Of The Techniques Described

Photographs displayed in pockets within the book.

A side pocket for documents.

Call-out text in a book.

A string of family photographs.

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I hope the techniques I've used in my books give you some ideas for how to tell the stories of your photos!

If you’d like to talk through any idea you have for telling your story in a custom heirloom book, please get in touch. GOOD STOCK would love to help. Thank you & happy Friday From The Collectors!

Article & Photographs
Copyright © 2008


Blogger Lidian said...

What a wonderful post - I love all the amazing things you have done to enhance these photos!

Thank you for sharing.

September 26, 2008 at 7:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great work, you have some really great ideas. I've never seen those photo book displays in quite that way. I'll have to show this to my cousin, she's really into family "scrapbooking" (sorry, don't know if that's the right terminology or not). Peronally my favorite is the call-out text on the photo "He was a man of few words". It reminds me of Time Life books. Very professional.

Also, I love that daguerreotype! It's incredible that he has both photos, I've never seen that before. Anyway, great post Kim!

September 26, 2008 at 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, Lidian and Kong!

Kong - I love that "man of few words" callout too. And of course, the man in question is the one with the cowboy hat on - and he just LOOKS like he has this quiet confidence. So great.

- kim

September 26, 2008 at 11:46 AM  
Blogger The Photo Detective said...

I'm a huge fan of Good Stock! Kim is a very special and extremely creative person. Visual storytelling at it's best.

September 26, 2008 at 2:42 PM  
Blogger Judith Richards Shubert said...

What a wonderful talent you have! Such a great article with so many good ideas. Thanks so much for sharing them.

September 29, 2008 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Chery Kinnick said...

Lovely books, splendid ideas. I will keep Good Stock in mind for future. Thank you!

October 1, 2008 at 10:55 AM  

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