What Are the Stories Our Photos Tell Us?

When you go through other people’s photos, you’re probably going to be able to pick out themes. You might see that they take pictures of the same things no matter where they are. Or they may take pictures at certain angles. Maybe they really like architecture, or a specific animal, or flowers.

What are the stories our photos tell us?

The pictures may not make sense to anyone but the person who was taking the picture. That’s one of the reasons I advocate so strongly with using the Legacy storytelling method of telling the stories behind those photos.

Without the story, you might think that’s just a picture of a tree. But it might be the tree where your grandparents met.

A Photographic Journey

I started thinking about this topic because my grandparents downsized. There were documents and photos and things that we needed to go through.

My grandparents are world travelers; in fact, my maternal grandmother has been on every single continent, which is pretty amazing. My grandfather has only missed Antarctica. And they love traveling together. Plus, they like taking pictures.

When I visited Phoenix in March, my mom and I were going through all of the pictures from a certain set of trips from the ‘90s and early ‘00s. The photos were in their original envelopes from the printer, and they had what trip it was written on there. Our task was to go through these photos and decide what we were going to keep and what we weren’t going to keep.

As I was going through these photos, I learned things about my grandparents, specifically my grandfather, that I didn’t know before.

I learned those things based on what he was photographing. In every set of photos, there were pictures of buildings. So either he or my grandmother loved architecture. They also took pictures of boats, boat yards, and birds. It was all really neat because it was a beautiful story in pictures.

The Stories Our Photos Tell Us

Looking through those photos was a beautiful story. It was a way to get an understanding of my grandparents I didn’t have before, a bit of a window into how their brains worked. I saw how they would angle the camera and how many shots they took before they got the one they wanted.

At that time, before digital, they had to carry all the film. And they took quite a number of photos of one thing trying to get the right shot they really wanted. They also always took pictures of the bands. They went on cruises, and at each port, there would be a welcoming committee. Sometimes that included bands from the local community.

Preserving Memories for the Future

I have a plan to scan all the photos that we kept. Then I want to arrange them in different ways. One way will be showcasing the themes, such as bands of the world, boats of the world, and birds of the world.

Take some time to look through the photos your loved ones took. You can learn a lot about a person just by how they took the photo and what the subject matter was. You’ll be able to see the different ways they viewed the world.

Photos are art and show us how someone else saw the world.

Document the Stories Our Photos Tell Us

It’s really up to you how you want to document those photos. You can put them in scrapbooks or use something like Shutterfly. And of course the Legacy Recorder is a great way to document those stories our photos tell us so you’ll have them—and their associated memories—for generations to come.


  1. […] archiving and preserving family photos […]

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