The typical picture is worth a thousand words. Some are far more valuable than that.
You may not recognize that value right away, but, if you’re fortunate, over time, you will.
Multigenerational family photos are a particular favorite of mine — the more generations, the better. Sometimes they are staged as an intentional act to preserve family history. My mother recently gave me a studio portrait taken in 1938 in which she — then an infant — was surrounded by her mother, her grandmother and great-grandmother.
Even through all the decades that have passed since, and the graying of the aged photo paper, you could still see the true glow in all their faces. Not just smiles. More like an aura. In spite of whatever difficulties might have been challenging them in their daily lives during The Great Depression — and I’m sure there were many — this moment if not nanosecond in time was filled with pure joy.
With birth comes new hope — a new beginning that perhaps offers an opportunity to grow up in better times.
What a wonderful treasure to have in my family photo archives.
But sometimes the best multigenerational photos are those that “just happen” — those that an unsuspecting amateur photographer may just view as one of dozens of pictures taken on a particular day, without even an inkling of the eventual personal significance of what he has captured.
Eventually, he notes the spontaneous happiness he sees in faces of the first-time grandmother and the first time great-grandmother — the first and perhaps only time they simultaneously held his infant child.
After studying his wife’s face he finally realizes and understands the full range of emotions — not to mention pure exhaustion — she must have been feeling at that very instant.
Sometime later, after my grandmother had died, the photo took on even greater value. That’s because it is one of a treasured few I have that includes all three of the most important women in my life. And it’s the only one I can say for certain was captured at a moment of pure joy.
It reminds me of how fortunate I am to have such an amazing wife and wonderful mother — not just on Mother’s Day, but every day.
Joe Hoshaw Jr. is editor and co-publisher of the Trenton Trib. Email him at email@example.com.