Tags: family research, photographs, Robert Heinlein
…”A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.” (ThinkExist.com Quotations. “Robert Heinlein quotes”. ThinkExist.com Quotations Online 1 Dec. 2008. 11 Jan. 2009 <http://einstein/quotes/robert_heinlein/)
I have heard this quote a few times in one version or another – you know, “Those who do not learn from history, repeat their mistakes” or similar. I read so many of the genealogy magazines, even ones dealing with areas of interest other than what I am currently working on. Seems I always glean some kernel of wisdom I can use to continue my search.
One the types of columns that always fascinates me is one on photographs. I LOVE my camera – not the camera itself – but taking the photographs. So I enjoy reading about and looking at old photographs. The obvious reason is wanting to know who a person is or what the scene is about. But then I go a step further and want to place that photo in historical context … when was it taken, what was the occasion? Unless rather well to do, a family would have to save for such a momentous occasion as a photography session.
Yet, that still is not enough for me. I find myself staring into their eyes, searching their faces, looking for some sign, some hint of what they know and are waiting to tell me. What were they thinking about? What were their hopes, their dreams, their deepest longings? Were they happy, sad, angry, or just existing? Were they truly in love with the person they stood with in that photo or was this a relationship of necessity, convenience, forced, arranged? What could they have taught me? Would I have listened then and been a better person for it? What would they think of me, us, the world now?
Those photos of places or scenery affect me in similar fashion. How I would loved to have been there at that moment, to experience that second in time. Would it have been a better place then or is it better now? Has it changed, does it still exist? Who lived there – how was their life there? Did they love that place or were they eagerly planning and saving to move elsewhere? Why?
Do the photos answer any questions for me or just leave me with more is something I am never completely sure of. Sometimes I become so nostalgic looking at places I love or people who are gone now that I loved. At those moments, photos let me remember, experience those bitter sweet memories again however briefly. They allow me to feel connected still to ones I cannot be with at this moment.
For me, a photo is a snapshot of a split second in time, a micron of that bit of history. And I want to know it, savor it, taste, feel, smell it – and most of all, to learn from it that I carry that lesson forward with me so I can know the future.