Monday, July 12, 2010

Picture me scratching my head

My project for most of the past week has been organizing my online photo albums. I scanned the majority of my non-digital photos a long time ago and categorized them by decade, but that turned out to be the easy part. Having scanned several photos at a tiime, I’ve had to go back to each scan and crop it into individual photos. This week I’ve been working on labeling each of those photos, which has turned out to be the biggest job of all.

A lot of the paper photos had names and dates written on the back, but the paper photos aren’t necessarily in the same order as the digital ones. That means flipping back and forth through the pictures one-by-one, searching for the one that matches the digital photo I’m trying to label. That gets old fast!

Two things have been most helpful in determining the dates of the photos: 1) the fact that we moved so often while my daughters were growing up, and 2) the girls’ school photos laid out in chronological order. The scenery and the furniture in the photos helped me be sure where each one was taken, and the girls’ hairstyles matched against the school pics helped me pinpoint a year.

So far I’ve worked my way from the pre-1940 photos all the way up through 1979; now I’m ready to tackle the ‘80s. Here’s a sceenshot showing just five of the 18 rows of pictures I have to identify and label from that decade:

The close attention to detail required takes a lot of time, but the biggest time consumer is my obsessive need to stop and admire each individual photo. These aren’t just pictures to me; they’re people and places and times of my life. They’re second on the list of things I would save in a fire, right after my dogs.

As I've been writing this post, the subject matter began to seem familiar, so I just did a blog search and discovered that I wrote about this once before, right after I began this project more than three years ago. The tone of that first post reflected much more of my love for the photos and much less about the technical difficulties involved in completing the project. Sometime between then and now, I seem to have lost the ability to envision an end to this work.

The photos mean as much to me now as they did then, so I assume that the difference in tone between the two posts is that I'm three years more tired and definitely more realistic about the amount of work this project entails.

One thing hasn't changed, though: It's still a labor of love.


  1. I imagine that cute little girl is your granddaughter who recently became a mother??? Wow, time flies. Still it's a very admirable task you've undertaken - or has it overtaken you???

  2. While it is fun to look at the past, I've discovered how time consuming and boring it can get after a while, but I keep reminding myself that the end product is worth it.

    I tried scanning a bunch of photos at once, but for me it's easier to do them one by one.

  3. What an enormous undertaking this is! I really can't imagine. I have a box per year of photos, since 1980!Thirty shoe-box type boxes, each labeled on the front and then cards between with the actual date and event. They take up an entire linen closet, including the floor. Thank heaven for digital!

  4. Holly, you're right, that little girl is my now 26-year-old granddaughter. Time flies!

    Janet, it's time consuming for sure, but it hasn't bored me yet. Then again, I'm the kind of woman who enjoys untangling the knotted chains in my jewelry box, so what would you expect?

    Duly Inspired, I wish I'd been as organized as you. Sounds like you've had a good system going for a long, long time. I used to have mine in albums, then found out the kind of albums I was using wasn't good for the pictures and had to pull them all out. I agree, digital is the best thing ever!

  5. I've been wanting to do this for the longest time and haven't begun is completely daunting to me because, like you, I get so involved with each photo. I can see me putting it off yet again for a few more years!

  6. Marion, what keeps me going is the idea that once I've finished with this, it will be so easy to keep up with new photographs as they're added. Sure hope I'm right about that. :-)

  7. I like unknotting chains too! But only when I'm in a patient mood. ;-)


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