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Historic Family Photos

Historic Family Photos
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I love old photos. I feel fortunate that part of my work week often involves researching historic images, whether it’s tracking down an obscure antique, a historic building or town, or images of long gone celebrities and politicians via historical societies or online photography stock houses. There’s a beauty and a romanticism to an older black-and-white image that I always find compelling.

The Library of Congress is full of old photos, many of them available for researchers to view online. I had the wonderful opportunity to dive into its vast collection of Lewis W. Hine images for a recent story and slide show. The faces, and a time and place captured using an old medium, are intriguing to me. We can look at these photographs, a brief moment frozen in time, and ponder the lives lived.

I have old family photos scattered throughout my home. One of my favorites is my Polish grandfather’s basketball team from 1933 (he’s on the bottom far right). My grandfather, Henry Tiska, sent the photo to me as a postcard with his shaky handwriting on the back stating, “Tell me what you have in mind when you finish school. You think I’ll ever see you again.” I was still in college and very much in my own world (having recently made plans to move across the country to Seattle with close friends after graduation without any real job prospects-horrifying to my parents, of course). I had no doubt I would see my grandfather again, and I did. I just didn’t yet realize how fleeting our time is with those we love and when he was gone, it took us all by surprise. I love having this photo of my grandfather in his youth. His words make me miss him, but the photo makes me smile, seeing this young version of a man I knew only as a much older man. Looking at this photograph fills me with memories of a life well lived and a grandfather my sister and I adored.

We’re all fortunate to have photographs in our lives that capture memories in such a tangible way. I have an album full of old family photographs collected by my mother — faces and times gone, but not forgotten. I cherish this book of photographs which holds photos of my biological father, Lee Haas, lost much too young in Vietnam, my grandmother, Anne Zygmont, in a very formal family portrait as a young child with an oversized bow in her hair, my nana, Jean Taylor Handy, being held by her brother, Donald and my great aunt Binnie’s childhood friend, Alexander, sitting on a pinto pony brought around the neighborhood for just such photo opportunities. Photographs to me are a preserved record for us to hold in our hands, a way to remember the importance of what and who has come before us. My hope is that I am able to pass this appreciation for the past along to both of my young daughters.

Updated Friday, April 29th, 2011

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