Photographs Become the Artifacts of Our Lives June 29 2008, 0 Comments

This week was a particularly sad week as we learned of the passing of Tim Russert. I have enjoyed watching him over the years. A decent, honest human being is so hard to find these days in the world of politics. We lost a true friend as well.

As his death was announced, I was struck by the vast numbers of images that were instantly transmitted around the world. I have only seen this instantaneous review of someone’s life in photographs on two other occasions in recent history, the first with the death of Princess Diana, and the second, with the death of Pope John Paul. Photographs of Tim Russert as a child, a man, a son and a father chronicle his journey, mark the decades of his life and tell the story of who he was. These images were shared with the world and are now the artifacts of his life.

I try to imagine what the news would be without photography, what our lives would be. Could I remember my grandmother’s face in such detail if I didn’t look at her photograph every day? Her wedding portrait is hanging on my bedroom wall. It was taken in 1923. I look into that photograph as though I were there with her.

A framed photograph of my friend Michael sits on the mantel in my living room. He smiles at me and I hear the sound of his voice even though he has passed away.

Stella laughs at me from the hallway next to my kitchen. She was one of the “Tap Dancing Grannies” from Austin, Texas. The woman had one goal, “To die young, as old as possible!” She did. She died last July just shy of her 90th birthday.

All of these wonderful people have left a part of themselves in the photographs I treasure so deeply.
And so, I see that what become true artifacts are the images documenting our lives. History is in the images.