Stepping Stones Blog

Milestone Memoirs: Step 4

 As I mentioned in the Introductory Post, Milestone Memoir is my vision of marrying one picture (worth 1,000 words) with one personal essay (500-1,500 words) to create a meaningful narrative for future generations.  

This method varies from traditional scrapbooking in that it places more emphasis on the written word, and less attention on decorative elements.  While journaling is always encouraged, many scrapbookers treat writing as an after-thought.  We try to ensure that the 5Ws are addressed (who, what, where, when, and why), but we tend to focus more on the layout’s visual appeal.

Please note that I do not see Milestone Memoir as a replacement for current scrapbook techniques.  Instead, I see it as coming along-side your other photo preservation methods.  It is more of a hybrid of scrapbooking and storytelling – YOUR story that needs to be shared with others.

Over the next several weeks, I will continue to outline the nine-step process.  Step 1 was to Brainstorm a Theme; steps 2 and 3 were to Brainstorm Chapters and Find Corresponding Photos.

* * * * *

Step 4:  Narrow Photos to ONE per chapter

This might seem a reasonable request for some; for others, palms may start to sweat with  shortness of breath to soon follow.  How can I pick just one?!

canopy bed

11th Birthday – “bed with a roof on top” It was the first time I cried tears of joy.

For us old-timers, that is… pre-digital photography, we had to pay for every picture taken.  This caused us to be more selective in shooting habits.  For example, while I might have devoted an entire roll of film to a specific event, let’s say a birthday party, that meant I only took 24 pictures (36 if I was feeling particularly wealthy).  Since I am an amateur photographer at best, several of those images would be considered substandard: too blurry, finger in the frame, too far away to discern the subject matter.  So typically I might have 8-10 usable images; narrowing the choice to just one is not too daunting.

But how do I choose?

There are, of course, the iconic birthday shots such as the pile of gifts, blowing out the candles, and eating the cake.  But what if I had to select one image to represent the entire event, would an iconic image be best?  Perhaps a photograph capturing a unique expression would tell more of the story.

There is of course no right answer, it is your perspective – your story.  But selecting one photo with layered meaning begs the viewer to read the words rather than simply assume the photo’s significance.  In this way, the photograph enhances the words… and vice versa.  It is a relationship where the sum of the whole is greater than each of its parts.

In this digital age, however, narrowing the selection can be more difficult.  Because there is no cost associated with taking pictures (only in making prints), we snap hundreds of photos at a time.  We of course delete the imperfect images, but we are still left with far more usable shots that make the selection of just one seem impossible.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I am not advocating Milestone Memoir should replace the family scrapbook. We all love looking at photos – remembering the various people and reminiscing about the event. Decorative pages incorporating several pictures are encouraged in this format.  Typically we try to complete those scrapbooks as soon after the event as possible, while details are still fresh in our minds.

But Milestone Memoir emphasizes the story behind the photograph.  Often, it helps if some time has passed:  distance from the event allows us to hone a perspective and discern meaning and signficance.  What do I remember most about that event?  What message do I want to communicate to future generations that could be summed up in just one image?

Wood Valley - no freeway copy

Me with Mindy – there are two stories within this photo, even though you can hardly discern the characters or setting.

And here is one more idea and then I will close.

Sometimes “the one” photo is NOT technically the best.  Sometimes “the one” is slightly out-of-focus, or overexposed, but the story behind the imperfect picture is begging to be shared.

Don’t silence the story.   Allow the words to enrich the photograph.  In the end the audience will not criticize the image but instead connect with the message.

Next week I will discuss Step 5:  Page Layouts and Color Scheme


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