PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE FAMILY

At almost any family get together, half a dozen or more people will be taking pictures—often of the same thing. Before the Internet and I-phones, it made sense to have a bunch of us taking the same pictures at the same time.

At the wedding of a great-niece last April (2016), I toted along two of my cameras—one a Canon rebel that uses film (yes, the real thing) and the canon Rebel digital that I had coveted for over a decade—I finally bought one for myself, figuring no one was ever going to buy it for me.

I was at my brother Bill’s for the weekend and as he looked over my camera, he said to his wife, “Su, this is the same camera we have” – “Well, GREAT!” I said, “you can take the pictures of the wedding party and I can be IN the pictures for a change!” So, that was what we did all weekend—at the wedding on Friday, then a get together with some classmates from St Leo’s class of 1954 on Saturday, as well as a family get-together, primarily nieces and nephews, at my nephew Scott’s Bar & Grill, Crosley’s, on Saturday afternoon. We also managed to get in more than a few pix of my great-niece, Olivia, my brother’s first granddaughter who was not yet a year old in April.

As it turned out, the canon that uses film used less than a roll of film; I am pretty much converted to the digital camera. And I owe my younger brother Bill such a huge thank you, for picking me up at the airport in Columbus, schlepping me all over the place, and then getting me back to the airport on Monday morning long before daylight.

I’ve been thinking lately about all the different cameras and all the photographs we have been taking, year in and year out. This started, for the Schmidt family, back when my parents, Viola and Pete Schmidt, were newly weds in 1935, sharing a Brownie camera. My parents were both avid photographers—for some reason I thought my mother was the chief photographer in the family until I realized that she is in so many of the pictures taken by my parents; my father isn’t IN many of those early pictures.

In the beginning, my mother mounted all those black and white brownie pictures in the men’s clothing albums that my paternal grandfather used to show potential customers. My Grandpa Schmidt was a tailor and made men’s suits. When new catalogs of suits came out, the old catalogs would have been discarded if not for my mother, who was an avid hoarder of paper, such as old envelopes, and she found a use for those catalogs of suits—she mounted the photographs they had developed onto the pages of those suits. I think it had as much to do with the depression and a scarcity of just about everything.

Then, after WW11 was over, she began tearing the photographs out of the suit catalogs, and mounting them in albums with customary black paper. Still, hundreds of photographs were packed into boxes and kept in my mother’s Hope Chest. She wouldn’t let me have any of the pictures.

When I was about thirteen and really getting “into” photography, I dug through my mother’s huge collection of negatives which were as large as the photographs, and having reprints made of any that I was in. It’s to my forever regret and sorrow that I didn’t just TAKE the negatives.

Years later, when a girlfriend and I were taking B&W photography classes one night a week at a community college, I realized that I could reprint all of those old negatives; I questioned our photo instructor about making reprints from old negatives. All I needed, he told me, was to fit the negative to a right size negative holder and the lab had an assortment of negative holder sizes. And I discovered that, due to the high silver content in those negatives, I could make sharp 8×10 reprints with very little adjustment.

I reprinted those that I HAD taken but knew my mother had hundreds that I had not taken. I called my mother one day to ask her what she had done with all those negatives. There was a silence on the line, then she said “Oh, Sandy, I think I burned all those before we moved to Florida” –I wanted to cry. it was incomprehensible – this woman who saved everything from empty lipstick tubes to the backs of envelopes, old pencils, rubber bands, and dozens of margarine tubs—did not keep those wonderful negatives.

So I did the next best thing; I asked family members to send me their old photographs, that I would return them unharmed, and I spent weeks setting up my tripod and with the help of a macro lens that took sharp close ups of the photographs, I re-created as many family pictures as I possibly could.

When I was a teenager, I put together my first photo album. By the time Jim* & I got married, I had created half a dozen photo albums.

(*Jim Smith & I got married in December, 1958. Divorced April, 1986)

For many years, my photography was limited to point-and-shoot cameras. When my dad died, my brother Jim suggested to our mother that I should have Dad’s Nikon camera that was still in a box. He told mom that I was the only person in the family who didn’t have a good camera.

Not long after this, my girlfriend Mandy suggested that the two of us take classes at Glendale Community College. God bless Mr. Liota, our teacher, he taught us so much about photography!

You can be sure that, in our family, many cameras will be busy snapping pictures—although now many of the pictures being taken are on I-phones.

As for me, I still have photographs printed and then mount them in my albums that I started buying in the 1970s. When I bought a house in the Antelope Valley in 2008, I converted the linen closet into a photo album closet. Makes sense to me – I don’t have a lot of towels and linens, but I do have a lot of photo albums!

–Sandra Lee Smith

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3 responses to “PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE FAMILY

  1. Richard Grupenhoff

    Dear Sandy, I continue to enjoy your articles (or should I say, “memoirs”? Anyway, glad to see you got back “home” to Cincinnati. I am going back there on Nov. 4-6 for my 50th class reunion at Xavier University. Keep up the articles… Regards, Richard Grupenhoff

    • Hello Richard – don’t know if I responded to the above…messages on the blog seem to get mixed up in no particular order. Now how was your 50th class reunion at Xavier? I need to contact my cousin who went to St X to see if she went to the reunion. You know, I flew to Columbus last April for one of my nieces’ wedding and my brother Bill, now living in Kettering, drove me hither & yon visiting – attended the wedding, went to a museum in Dayton, drove down to Camp Washington to meet some of my 8th grade classmates (from St Leo’s in Cincinnati) for lunch at the Camp Washington Chili Parlor, then met up with a bunch of nieces and nephews at my nephew Scott’s place – cant think right now what it is called but its a beer-snacks-pool table, etc kind of place. THEN spent the night at one of my nephew’s & his wife’s home before driving back to Kettering on Sunday…I flew out of Columbus on Monday morning, spent Monday night at a girlfriend’s home before driving back to the Antelope Valley early the next morning. My dog Brody stared at me like I was a mirage. lol. So, when are YOU going back to Cincy? – Sandy

  2. Hi, Richard – what a nice surprise!! I have missed your comments – my cousin Renee (actually Irene) is a grad from Xavier…I’m sure hers are more than 50th as was mine. We were born 5 months apart as was another cousin who was also born around in April of 1940–while I am the youngest of the 3 of us. That cousin (Peg, actual name is Margaret was the sister of my cousin Connie, who I wrote about a few years ago. It still pains me that Connie died so unexpectedly. She was younger than Peggy, Renee and me. any way, I don’t think I knew you went to Xavier — well, we are ships passing in the night again, both of us making it to Cincinnati but not at the same time. (maybe next time?) — have a good time! Am thinking six degrees of separation. — thanks for writing. Sandy

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