Archive for the ‘family’ Tag

The Incredible Tagging War of 2011   1 comment

In-N-Out BurgerIt was Christmas break, and Little Girl was home from college. We went out to lunch at a SoCal favorite, In-N-Out Burger.

And Little Girl fired the opening salvo of a war that still reverberates today.

What did she do? She checked in (because you have to tell everybody when you eat at In-N-Out). She tagged me, and she tagged our cousin Tony. His family had visited that year, loved them some In-N-Out, and she knew Tony would be jealous of where we were. And he wasn’t.

We could almost hear his groans 1,816 miles away. And the war had begun.

Soon, we were tagging Tony and his family wherever we were. Venice Beach. A prison that we drove by. Dodger Stadium. Every airport anyone flew through. If we were there, Tony was there. According to Facebook.

And, of course, Tony gave as good as he got.

Our family was tagged when he went to Spring Training in Florida. We were tagged when he flew to South America on business. We were tagged everywhere his family went. We always knew what they were doing!

And then one day, he tagged us and achieved tagging immortality. He tagged our family as being with him when he visited that mecca of local retail, Walmart. Now, of course, it’s sad that Tony went to Walmart, and it’s sad that anyone thought we went with him. What do they think of us?

But that Facebook tag was seen by Velda’s sister. And Velda’s sister asked their Mother when we had arrived in the Midwest, because she saw that we were at a local Walmart. And Velda’s mother then called Velda’s cell, asking why we kept our visit to the Midwest a secret from her.

Now, Velda’s mother does not use a computer. Imagine having to explain to her that we weren’t actually in Missouri, we were in California. But we were shown as being in Missouri on something called Facebook. And that it was a joke.

That she didn’t get, of course.

I still don’t think she believes us. After all, somebody read about it on the internet.

Posted May 19, 2013 by henrymowry in Living Life, Media

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Little Girl’s Wisdom   3 comments

Little Girl, back when she was a Little Girl.

Little Girl, back when she was a Little Girl.

Little Girl said something important today.

Little Girl isn’t so little these days … she’s home from college now, and working at a day care business here in Santa Clarita. She’s now in charge of the kindergarten; a promotion she recently earned. My Little Girl is doing very well these days.

Her kindergarteners don’t call her Little Girl, but I do. And I always will.

In her room at the day care, she decorates the walls with a variety of stuff.  She’s got a “me display” that includes pictures of her family. There’s a picture of her niece, Payton, among others.

Little Girl relayed a conversation she had with a kindergartener in her charge, and it brought a smile to my face. Twice.

Kindergartener: Who’s that?

My Little Girl: That’s my boyfriend, Eric.

Kindergartener: You’re not married?

My Little Girl: No, we’re not married.

Kindergartener: But you have a baby? You can’t have a baby if you’re not married.

My Little Girl: No, that’s not my baby. That’s Payton, she’s my niece. She’s my brother’s baby.

Kindergartener: Oh…. You have a brother?

My Little Girl: I have two brothers and two sisters.

Kindergartener: You have two brothers and two sisters?!!??

My Little Girl: Well, my two brothers are both married. And their wives are my sisters-in-law. They are my sisters.

Kindergartener: Ohhhhhh.

OK, so I love this Kindergartener. Can’t have a baby if you’re not married? Love it.

The big idea here, though, is Little Girl describing her relationship with her sisters-in-law. They are sisters.

They were all 3 in the weddings for the 2 that are married, and I’m sure that Lauren will have her sisters in her wedding (whenever that might happen).

Sisters. Family.

Isn’t that the way that it should be?


Here’s Little Girl … the blonde! … and her two sisters. That’s the very important mother of my Granddaughter on the left, and MrsMowry on the right. 2006.

Posted May 15, 2013 by henrymowry in Genealogy, Living Life

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Another Aunt, Another Bad Lawn   2 comments

Morgan Family Home

Here we have a picture of another part of my family, and another rather interesting lawn.  The photo is circa 1905, taken near Graham, MO.

The matriarch of the family, front and center, is Lucy Farrow Morgan, who would be my Great Great Great Aunt, AKA Great Great Grandaunt.

Also identified is the man sitting on the left, her son-in-law Philip Daise.  I’ll assume that he’s using the lawn ornament as a hat rack, though I have no idea what that is or how it’s working.  His wife, Mary Alma Morgan Daise, is sitting center left.

And this lovely family doesn’t seem to care that their “lawn” is rather tall.  Perhaps my ancestors are trying to tell me something….

Morgan Family Yard, Up Close

Building Memories   3 comments

When Lauren went away to college, when we cut down the Christmas tree became an annual dance.  Now that she's home, having her niece be a part of the tradition was very important!

When Lauren went away to college, scheduling our Christmas tree expedition became an annual dance with every family member’s calendar. Now that she’s home, the family’s schedule is much easier — which meant getting Lauren’s new niece to the Christmas Tree farm was very important this year!

The tiniest things can become traditions.  And with children, those tiniest things are supremely important.

Anything can be a tradition!  Anything.  Holidays seems to bring them out for everyone, but really anything can become a tradition:

  • When we drove 32 miles to St Joseph (which was a big deal in my small world growing up), we usually stopped at the Dairy Queen in Savannah for a treat.  Nobody makes banana splits like those anymore!
  • When Velda and I were dating, we had a booth that we had to sit at when we went to our favorite bar restaurant, The Heidelberg.  It happened to be booth # 13 … one of many 13s that followed us through our courtship … until we were married on May 13.
  • Christmas mornings were a time of wonder for our young family.  The Christmas tree was very lonely in our living room … until Christmas Eve night, when Santa delivered all of the presents after the kids went to bed!  Bedtime was negotiated fiercely every year … and the time kids could venture downstairs Christmas morning was also negotiated!

Why are traditions so important?

Traditions are comforting, like a chair that is just right for you.  We like repetition, and it can make us feel very good when we know what’s coming.  The anticipation of familiarity is very satisfying.  We want things to be just like we remember them.  We want to control our environment so that we can make it predictable.

Traditions teach values. One of my favorite traditions in Scouting is to carry ashes from campfire to campfire … symbolically uniting that night’s campfire with every campfire that had preceded it since the tradition began.  Scouting campfires are important … and here’s a ceremony I used that helped make sure that the Scouts and Scouters understood that importance:

Legend has it that Baden-Powell would always take a small amount of ashes from a ceremonial campfire  and then spread these ashes into the next campfire.  The main purpose of these ashes is to share with you the memories of past campfires and to bring all Scouts and Scouters together in the world brotherhood of Scouting.

The ashes I spread into this campfire carry memories of past campfires dating back to Brownsea Island in July of 1907, the first Boy Scout camp.  They have been carried around the world to almost 400 Scouting campfires in many countries where Scouting fellowship has been shared.  The ashes came to me in 1996 at Camp Thunderbird near Seattle, and first came to Pack 575 at Hart Park in September of 1996.  I will now add these ashes to this campfire. Lord Baden-Powell said:

 “We carry our friendships with us in these ashes from other campfires with comrades in other lands. May the joining of the past fires with the leaping flames of this campfire, symbolize once more the unbroken chain that binds Scouts and guides all nations together.  With greetings from our brothers and sisters around the world, I add these ashes, and the fellowship therein, to our campfire.”

Every time I used that ceremony, it was an emotional, memorable moment.  Traditions work.

People who share in a tradition are connected.  There’s a reason that families use Grandma’s silver at holiday meals.  There’s a reason that going out to dinner when a family member has a birthday is important.  Those memories tie us together.  Sharing life’s memories together fills us with warmth and happiness.

Build some memories with your family, extended family and friends.  It could be going for a walk on Saturday mornings, the family lunch after church on Sunday, or sharing opening day of baseball season with your buddy.  It could be anything.

And it will be a treasured memory.

One tradition I've seen repeated at several nursing school graduations is the lighting of candles to commemorate the sharing of knowledge.  Here, for the Antelope Valley College graduates, December 2012.

One tradition I’ve seen repeated at several nursing school graduations is the lighting of candles to commemorate the sharing of knowledge. Here, shared by the Antelope Valley College nurse graduates, December 2012. My favorite part of this picture is the glow of the various cellphone and camera screens from the audience at the bottom of the pic!


The Interculturalist

Heart of the Matter

Juggling 13,831 Files   3 comments

I just checked: my genealogy folder has 13,831 files in it.  Most of these are photo scans, but some are also document scans, the page layouts and .pdf files for the family photo scrapbooks that I’ve compiled and even audio files.  By the time I’m done with the Hepler book later this month, I’ll have 14,000 genealogy files.

And those match the 33,624 names in my family tree file.  Well, some of them, anyway.

Label your photos -- with a proper pen that with ink that will dry on photo paper -- or your backup band may never be identified.

Label your photos — with a proper pen that has ink that will dry on photo paper — or your backup band may never be identified.

And then there are the 35,415 photographic files that are everything from work photos to vacation snaps to family shots to … well, my photographic life.  My photographic files go back to 2004, when we said good bye to film.  And don’t get me started on the 3-ring binders of prints & even slides that need scanning.  Velda already has that on my worklist.

So you see the problem, right?  Thousands and thousands of files, and you need to know where they all are.  And this is the story of how I failed.

I was working on the Chucalo family photo scrapbook.  Velda and I had flown back to St Louis several times, visiting cousins and scanning photos with multiple families.  On a good day, I was gathering 100+ files.  Do that for several days in a row … and you don’t know which file is which if you aren’t careful.  We had files that were named, files that were unnamed, file folders crammed with original photographs, photo prints, obituaries, random notes, plane tickets and rental car agreements.  It was chaos.

If photos have names written on the back, you can scan that photoback directly to both save the best record of the photo, and move on quickly to other scans.

If photos have names written on the back, you can scan that photo back directly to both save the best record of the photo, and move on quickly to other scans.  Just make sure you name the photo back scan the same as the photo front!

And we work for a living.  Velda and I were doing these trips on vacations.  We would fly back home — tired from our vacation — and go right back to work.  Work being what it is, I was behind, and couldn’t devote much time to the photo processing for some time … when I would have to decipher all of those cryptic handwritten notes.

Which I always did perfectly, of course.

After I had processed the photographs, composed the scrapbook pages and updated the family tree files, I created rough draft .pdfs that I then sent back to the relatives for approval.  This was essential; it was my proofing double check. But come to find out, this only works when you know which file you’re sending.

I was paranoid about losing data, so I was constantly making backups.  I had the work files on my laptop’s desktop.  I would then copy them  every few hours to the “real” folder location on the c:/ drive, and then duplicate them onto a portable hard drive at that same time.  And that worked great, until I didn’t copy the right file to the right back-up.

I had gotten an edit to the page for one of my favorite cousin’s pages.  I had gotten his name wrong:  Robert Eugene instead of Robert Gene.  It was an understandable mistake, perhaps:  Robert Eugene is my father’s name.  In any event, I had it wrong, got the correction, fixed the page, then copied the wrong file into the backup, and never caught the mistake.  I published the book with the wrong name for my cousin.  The wrong name.  How do you fix that?

Seriously, how?

Learn from my mistake:

1. Have one location for work files.

2. Have one location for backups. (And ALWAYS keep a backup.)

3. Don’t mix them up.

4. Have a method for checking important edits.  Keep a file of requested edits, and then check them to make sure they’re done.  And then check them again.

It's only when your pictures are properly labeled that your descendants can be sure which picture is of you.

It’s only when your pictures are properly labeled that your descendants can be sure which picture is of you.

Management and Parenting: Making It Work   5 comments

Our electronic tether has become shorter and shorter.  I used to train my sales reps that they had 24 hours to return a phone call.  Today, that would seem hopelessly unresponsive.

The average 18-24 year old exchanges about 16 text messages every waking hour according to Pew Research.

A client contacted you?  You had better respond within the hour.  And if you don’t respond within 5 minutes, you may well frustrate your client just as assuredly as you would frustrate a comically insecure girl.  Watch “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” if you need a refresher on what happens when you are unresponsive to a person of the opposite sex (and it’s a good romantic comedy as well).

HOWEVER, what’s good for your professional life is anathema to your personal life.  I believe you should have 1 appointment and 1 rule for your family every day.  Every day.

Every single day.

1. Your family should eat together every evening.  That’s difficult with a baby, of course, and it’s difficult with a teenager.  But you need to make it happen every possible day.  It doesn’t matter if you are doing home cooking (though that is great — even if you are a lousy cook like me).  It does matter that you sit down as a family and break bread as a family.  Work schedules will interfere; high school activities will as well.  Do your best:  eat together absolutely as often as possible.

2. Electronic devices are not allowed.  No television, no cellphones.  No one answers their phone while at the dinner table.  A musical background is recommended:  music is good for the soul.  But no cellphones.  No text messages. No handheld gaming systems. No iPads.  None.

Our family dinners were so good — and yes, Velda’s cooking was so good — that Alley’s # 1 choice for a wedding gift was a cookbook of family recipes. That became a part of her wedding celebration, with recipes contributed by family and friends.  It’s important to build memories with your family.

Normal Rockwell was right: family dinners are important, and not just when turkey is being served.

What’s the purpose of dinner?  Sharing thoughts about your day, your week, your life — with everyone and for everyone.  Young children learn how adults think.  Adults learn how teenagers think.  And that’s good for every member of your family.  The benefits accrue gradually, over years.  Share a laugh, share an idea, share your life.

I was struck last weekend by a young boy exiting a very nice restaurant with his family.  He was so engrossed in his video game that he couldn’t see to walk out of the restaurant.  He bumped into strangers.  He bumped into hard objects like chairs and walls.  What did Mom do?  She caught up to him, grabbed his head, and steered him between the obstacles so he wouldn’t lose his place in his game.

What did he learn?  Mom would be in charge and it didn’t matter what he did: he could be remote, unengaged and rude.  Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful future employee?  Husband?  Father?

What did Mom learn?  That her son needs her to be in charge, as he’s unable to cope in polite society.  She’s a future helicopter parent, the scourge of teachers and colleges everywhere.

If you have young children, start this today.  If you have older children, start this today.  If your kids are grown up and out of the nest, then begin having an appointment meal at least once a week.

If you’re already doing it, you have my thanks.  If you don’t do this … you’re missing it.

Creating a Family Photo Scrapbook   2 comments

Here’s the step-by-step that I followed to create my family’s photo scrapbooks.

I did cover pages for each book as a collage of fun pictures & details from the people featured. Later books also included a key to which person was in which photo (oops!).

Happy to recommend the # 1 selling genealogy software!

I updated my genealogy files with the parents, using the program Family Tree Maker.  It’s an easy program to use – and believe me, it’s very important to have a family tree to help you keep track of which child belongs with which parent.  There’s a dizzying array of last names, maiden names, extended families and “Uncles” that are really “friends.”  As baseball taught us, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard!

When you combine Family Tree Maker with a subscription to that company’s, you have a powerful tool to expand your family tree.  Highly recommended if you want a big job that few undertake … but that will thrill the people in your family that appreciate having good, accurate records of who’s who.

We made appointments with the family members we could visit; I also exchanged a few packages with relatives that preferred to send me pictures for scanning.

We visited each family for 2-3 hours.  I brought my laptop, flat bed scanner and a cheap printer.  I had a plug strip with extension cord, and typically set up the gear on a kitchen or dining room table.  I also brought my Nikon camera to shoot pictures too large for the scanner, and to shoot the people at each scanning “event.”  We had prepped families to set aside photos that they wanted included in the collection (and some did, some didn’t).  When the family started taking portraits off of the walls for scanning, I knew we were getting somewhere!

My goal, constantly reinforced, was to include “good pictures” of the family.  I focused on:

  • Studio shots
  • Senior pictures
  • Wedding pictures, especially of beautiful brides (they all are!)
  • Family snapshots at important events, like family reunions, birthday celebrations, etc.
  • Good pictures

I quickly learned that I needed a naming convention for all files as well as a file organization system that I understood.  Files were named “last name, first name and other people in the picture, ” or perhaps “Mowry Family, Henry, 2006.”  I used maiden names as much as possible, and used some key words to distinguish photos from each other, such as school, bride, toddler, Sr Pic, etc.  Group shots were given a relevant name (such as Baugher 7x), and then I printed the photo on my cheap printer.  Someone then wrote on the printed page the file name and the name of each person in the picture (names were often written on the faces in the printed copy to ensure we knew who was who).  Try it; it works and served to quickly identify group shots so we could keep scanning new pictures.

Having beautiful relatives always makes the books easier to look at!

I only included photos that each family wanted included.  Some wanted divorced spouses in the book; some didn’t.  Some included family pictures of spouses that weren’t in the bloodline.  That was all fine with me:  I appreciated the support.  I didn’t have an agenda in making these books; I just wanted to preserve and share family pictures.  Widely.

Pictures of brides are always beautiful … especially when the bride is my own!

Scans were done in the .tif format, which I learned is the best format for digital editing.  I did not scan photos as .jpg files, as those files lose quality each time they are edited/saved. Scans were done using settings of 48-bit color with a minimum of 300 dots per inch (dpi).  A scan done at 300 dpi will make a lovely print at its original size.

The B&W setting was 16 bit grayscale, with the same dpi.  I often increased the line screen dramatically for important photos; my mother’s wedding picture was done at 800 dpi.  My Great Great Grandfather’s Civil War tintype was scanned at 1200 dpi.  With high quality scans like those, you can blow up the photos, and often fix photographic problems using basic photo editing software like Photoshop Elements (where I started), or the full Photoshop (where I ended).  The tintype ended up blowing up from about 6 square inches to 80 square inches; it looked just fine.

Digital photos are today’s standard, and resolutions are rising along with smartphone lens quality.  When I started this process, Facebook photos were low resolution and virtually unusable in a printed book like I was creating.  Today, many photos posted to Facebook are higher resolution and can be printed with acceptable sharpness. Scanning photos is still essential, but Facebook photos are great supplements, especially from scattered relatives if you can’t visit their homes.

I laid the pages out using Word, which was the simplest solution for me (but I would use a “real” layout program if I was starting over today!).  Each of the four families had a unique color scheme (border and headline colors), which provided a subtle differentiation between the families.  I used four templates for each family:  plain landscape and portrait, and landscape and portrait with a text box for explanations and photo captions.

Family members love pages of snap shots. It’s OK to sacrifice quality when you only have a few pictures of some family members.

Here’s my basic formula:  each person got their own page, with 3-5 pictures on it.  Additional pages were created for brides, weddings, family gatherings, and whatever made sense.  If the pictures weren’t available, then the pages were combined so the layouts were pleasing to the eye.  Some families got 8 pages, some got 1 page.  Ancestors from the 1800s seldom had pictures; today’s child has pictures taken daily if you closely monitor Facebook!

The genealogy pages illustrating how people were related proved to be extremely popular. No one knows all of their relatives; pages like this one — created in Family Tree Maker — provide great road maps for understanding how the different branches of the family tree are connected.

Genealogy pages were added to help the reader follow the flow of the family.  I basically started with the oldest generation, organized by family group, with oldest child first, etc.

The final pages are a “complete” family tree showing birth, marriage and death dates for everyone in the family.  Each book includes a pair of CD ROMs with copies of the .pdf files for all pages, allowing for on screen viewing, or easy reprinting.  The Chucalo book also included a recording of a wonderful interview with 98-year old Aunt Millie about growing up in the 1920s and ‘30s.  Priceless.

Pages were printed on my color laserjet.  Pages were placed back-to-back in page protectors, in 3-ring binders.  The intent was to make a scrapbook that could change and expand with the family.  Given the number of pages I created (books have run 150 – 250 pages per family), I felt this was the right way to go.

Books were presented to all contributors.  I made between 15 and 25 copies of each family’s photo scrapbook.

Years later, I continue to hear from family members about how much they appreciate these books.  They were definitely big ideas; I spent many weekends and evenings completing all of the photo editing, layout, printing and assembly that went into each book.

Here’s the key question:  if you don’t have something like this, then how will your families remember their ancestors, cousins and good times that have been shared?

The simple ideas are best. Themed pages, such as this one, will be great additions to your family photo scrapbook.

Treasuring Family Photos   8 comments

Where are your family photos?

A few years ago, I found that my family’s older photos were in big plastic crates stored at my Mother’s house.  Mom was the family pack rat … she’d been given photos by people for decades.  Most of the photos were just loose; many were unlabeled.  They were all  irreplaceable.  And should tragedy strike her home, those photos would just be gone.

A label of “Mother” means nothing if you don’t know who wrote the label. In this case, my mother knew who labeled the photo: this is a photo of my Great Grandmother Cora Baugher Shull.

That was unacceptable!

I then learned something:  my 20 years of experience in handling advertising graphics had prepared me for the preservation of my family’s photographic heritage.  I truly had no idea that my knowledge of graphic files and what was then called desktop publishing was unique in my family, and absolutely essential to save and share the photographs that my Mother had lovingly collected over the years.

Here’s a published resource for how to preserve your family’s photos using archive-quality techniques.

Until I went through my mother’s photos, I had never seen this jaunty photo of my Grandfather, Wilbur Mowry.

Today, there are more challenges than just preserving photographic prints made 75 years ago.  Keeping, cataloging and just plain saving the flood of digital photographs we accumulate today is very difficult.  Our first digital camera was a Sony that took pictures on a 3.5” floppy disk … we almost retired our last computer with a 3.5” drive before I transferred all of those pictures onto a hard drive.

Many of today’s photos are taken with a smartphone and then uploaded to Facebook or Pinterest.  That’s great for sharing with family and friends … but almost useless for keeping those images.

Social media sites can use your images as they see fit – sometimes including  placing your pictures in advertisements without your specific approval!  The most popular sites all have published Terms on their sites that “clearly” outline their policies in legalese.  Prominent will be their policy that they can change their Terms at any time, without notice, without compensation.  So, they can DELETE your images at their pleasure.

They will always edit your pictures, compressing them with a unique algorithm that restricts their file size (and thus, quality) to a degree that they determine.  Don’t use Facebook to save your photos!

If you keep your photographs on your phone … what happens when you drop your phone?  Are all of your pictures … just gone?  What if your phone gets stolen?  Any back-up copies of your favorite pix?

This blackmail-worthy photo from 2004 was almost lost when it was left on old, outdated media: a 3.5″ floppy.

Digital photos must be labeled and organized … and then backed up … on your computer and external hard drives.  There’s no other way.

So, you’ve saved your photos.  Now what do you do with them?

In 2007, I began what has become a 5-year project to collect and preserve photographs, and then publish them in scrapbooks for four families:  those of my Father (Mowry), Mother (Shull), Father-in-law (Chucalo) and Mother-in-Law (Hepler).  I have visited many of my cousin’s homes to scan their favorite photographs and add them to my ever-expanding library.

The Mowry book was complete in 2007, and the Shull book followed soon after in 2008.  I was greatly assisted by my Mother, who had a huge number of photos … and had the genealogy nailed.

More research, and more long distance family visits were required for the other two books, and the Chucalo book was complete in 2011.  The Hepler book is now perhaps 80% complete; my goal is to complete it this year.

Each person that received one of the books was amazed by the pictures of their family – and themselves – that they had never seen.  By combining the pictures in each of the cousin’s homes, we created a unique collection that was much more complete than any owned by the individuals.  When those pictures were combined with pictures of their ancestors that they had never even known to exist, a true treasure was created.

I offered free copies of all digital photo and family tree files to anyone who would send me a portable hard drive on which to send them their data.

Please note that there are many ways to do these books … this is the way I did them beginning in 2007!  Today, you should certainly consider using services like Shutterfly or Adorama Pictures to print bound books.  There are no wrong answers here:  if you like your collection and how you share it, then that is a great thing.

Today, I have digital copies of all of the photos backed up in 3 locations.  That library currently has over 11,000 files and 183 gigabytes of data.  In addition, my personal photography library has over 32,000 files and 300+ gigabytes of data.  An emergency in my home or the death of my computer will not result in the loss of my files.  I backup using Norton 360 (which I know computer geeks hate, but it’s easy for this consumer).  I’m loving my automatic, online backup service through Carbonite.

Your family photos are treasures.  Treat them as such: cherish them, display them, share them.

This 1911 Chicago photo is of the wedding party for Simon Krstich (AKA Simon Chucalovich) and Mary Gavelda, my wife’s Grandparents. The original framed photo was kept in the closet of their eldest daughter in 2011 … her daughter didn’t even know she had the photo!

Posted August 1, 2012 by henrymowry in Genealogy, Photography

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The Death of the Photograph   2 comments

Facebook is killing photography.  I cringe every time I see a blurry self portrait, or a snapshot that is oh so cute … that’s being consigned to the digital scrap heap of someone’s newsfeed.

William Henry Mowry, circa 1864. This tintype photograph is the earliest photo I have of a family member.

Photography is a relatively recent invention.  Aristotle contemplated how images of the sun projected through a hole in 330 BC.  The first practical, long-lived photographic image appeared in the 1830s, the Daguerreotype.  With the invention of flexible film by George Eastman in 1889, handheld cameras became possible … and mobile media soon followed.

This photo of Simon and Maria Chucalovich’s family was taken by an itinerant photographer, selling his services door to door in about 1922. Photography — much less mobile photography! — was still unusual in this era, and quite a crowd gathered to watch this photograph being taken on the front step of the family home.

Today, if you believe the hype from digital journalists, you might think the only cameras being used are smartphones.  There’s no doubt that the iPhone has changed the way that we think of and use cameras.  Today’s camera phones wirelessly upload your pictures using your favorite app, and they give you instant gratification when you share your snaps and friends see them NOW.

The best camera to take a photograph is the one in your hand … so the more accessible smartphones are, the more likely they will take more pictures.

However, smartphones currently deliver pictures that are generally lower in quality than even low priced “point and shoot” cameras.  The phone manufacturers are certainly improving the qualities of their cameras, but they have a long way to go before they will truly compete with the quality of dedicated handheld cameras.

So, here we are today.  We have more pictures being taken by lower quality cameras.  To deepen the problem, those pictures are almost never saved in a traditional sense … they’re uploaded to Facebook or Instagram or Flickr (and usually shrunk & degraded by the site’s algorithm).  Once on a social media site, the photographer loses control of the image (and those implications will be discussed in a later post).

So if you take a picture that’s important, what do you do with it?  Family photographs are heirlooms.  They are passed from generation to generation.  They are proudly displayed in their owner’s homes.

Unfortunately, today’s smartphones just aren’t up to that standard.  Make no mistake, those smartphone cameras are improving and mobile snapshots can be wonderful.  They are seldom, however, first quality photographs.

If your goal is to capture memories in photographs that last longer than your Facebook newsfeed allows, then you’ll want to find a way to take high quality photographs, display them and store them.

Here’s a resource for the key issues in purchasing a digital camera.

Here’s a “how to” resource for displaying and storing heirloom photographs.

The family of Phillip Patterson “PP” Shull, circa 1905.  This hundred-year-old photograph has been passed through many hands for you to see it.  Note the dog at the corner of the house, which must have been nailed in place to stay still long enough for the long exposure necessary for this photograph!  Click on the photo to enlarge the image and see the dog carefully watching his master.