My mum has always been a keen photographer,and one of our favorite things growing up was looking through the photo albums that documented our lives, especially the ones she’d pieced together from the much rarer photos taken during her and dads’ childhoods.
Sascha was born during the twilight years of the film photo era and I dutifully started creating albums for her to look back on, but by the time Sam was born a couple of years later, I had my first digital camera and making albums for him involved editing and printing the photos myself instead of dropping the roll of film off to the pharmacy and collecting the next day. While I loved the ability for instant review and delete, plus being able to email pictures to family and friends to show off our new little boy, it meant his photo albums looked very sparse in comparison to the stack generated in Sascha’s early years.
By the time of Sam’s fifth birthday, photo album production had dwindled to non existence, and in a guilt-fuelled frenzy I decided I’d make a book for his birthday called The Year Sam Was 4 using a website I’d read about where you could upload photos and write your own accompanying text.
The book was a hit, and Sam loved reading about himself and seeing all of the photos that documented his year. I hadn’t viewed it as anything other than a one off until two weeks before Sascha’s birthday later that year, when she announced she couldn’t wait to read about the year she was seven! Cue many late nights uploading photos and writing and editing text to get a book created in time, but it was the first present she opened and her excitement made it all worth while.
The books have become an important part of our birthday traditions, with the kids rereading all of the previous years in the lead up and the new edition always being the first present opened and devoured before anything else gets unwrapped. I still use the same website — Snapfish, it’s part of the tradition — and despite swearing to do it differently each year, it still always ends up getting done as a last minute frenzy of photo uploading and editing right down to the wire for deadline to print and deliver on time for the big day.
I’ve expanded from birthdays into documenting some of our family trips this way as well, and included some ‘cheat’ options like My Social Book which takes your Facebook feed for a given date range and turns that into a book. There’s much less editing flexibility, but on the plus side you also can include the comments and interaction from friends which can make for very funny rereading down the track. I made a book about our trip to the London Olympics this way and we all had the giggles recently rereading some of the posts I’d made and the comments around them; things definitely got a little ranty when my bag was the only one that didn’t make it to London (thanks for that Qantas!).
I’ve just read in Collective magazine about a site that I can’t wait to try. Called Histography, it sends a loved one a question each week about their past and at the end of the year posts all the answers in a bound autobiography. What a great way for to capture family memories , and then in turn be able to pass those on to future generations.
I’m a big fan of technology, but let’s face it sitting down for an afternoon browsing through the cloud isn’t quite the same as passing around a book with your family memories captured and in a true marriage of the best of both worlds, the books themselves are all stored online and able to be reprinted at the click of a button, meaning a glass of spilt milk by an overeager child isn’t the disaster it once could have been.