• Helen Gregory

Help your photos tell their stories

'Auntie Enid, Dorset'...who was she really?

It’s often said that a picture is worth 1,000 words. That might be true, but look at this picture and it'll probably only tell you a handful; it’s an elderly lady, she looks kind and friendly….er, that’s it.

If one of your children or grandchildren were to come across it in an old photo album, there might be a barely legible caption underneath to give them a clue. Perhaps, ‘Auntie Enid, Dorset.’ Of course, you might be on hand to explain that actually, Auntie Enid was a spy during the war, an eccentric who kept tame ducks that you loved to pet on visits to her farmhouse. She taught you how to ride a bike and you like to think you inherited your love of drawing from her.

But what if you’re not there when that grandchild looks through your photos, and just flicks past Auntie Enid, unaware of those memories and stories about your much-loved relative. They'll have been lost forever – unless you write them down.

The same applies to keepsakes. You might be saving stuff you salvaged from your parents’ house, trying to separate junk from treasure. There’s the broken sewing machine that’s missing a foot, kept purely because your mother loved it so much. But surely it’s better to write about how your mother was a brilliant seamstress, made all your clothes as a child and even patiently stitched matching tiny doll’s clothes for you? That way, future generations can share these treasures without worrying about having to house them, or dumping them without realising their significance.

These old photos and personal belongings won’t mean much to future generations if you’re not around to fill in the gaps. They’ll make a much better frame on which to hang your life story; you can use the photographs as illustrations, and even take pictures of the objects to include in your book, which then becomes an amazing family archive.

So go on, clean out your loft and cellar, go through the old albums and tell their story in a life story book.