Saturday, February 16, 2008

Another Polaroid in Filmmaking

You need to check out the film "Fragments" by Kevin Curtis, in which a Polaroid features prominently. (Click on the headline above and wait a moment). The ending is sort of obvious. But this British Academy Film Awards site (discovered via StumbleUpon) invited aspiring film makers to submit a 60 second short film around a theme of "unite". The regional winners rubbed shoulders with some of the world's most famous actors, screenwriters and directors at a ceremony on February 10th.

A number of the films are funny and well put together. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Project StoryKeeper Wants 100,000 of You

John Callahan as goalie in Syracuse, N.Y in 1920's

Know how precious the sound of your mother's voice is? Or your father's? Or how how one person in a family can tell a story in a special way that you want to hear over and over again?

Project StoryKeeper is seeking an army of 100,000 volunteers to collect the audio biographies of elderly Americans before those voices are silent. The mission of Project StoryKeeper is to preserve an American heritage found in the life stories of all Americans. The volunteers, who will be trained in interviewing techniques will concentrate their interviewing in elder facilities. The stories will then be posted on the internet for family and friends to enjoy, preserve and add to for generations to come.

The founder of the Project StoryKeeper experienced first hand how the loss of family members was also a loss of their personal part of family history. The volunteers will be trained to use a special "audio biography kit" to "capture who these people are, the voice, the wit, the personality ... so anyone can get to know them as a person."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Let's Shed a Tear for Polaroid Film

Another passing of era was just announced! Polaroid is ceasing production of its instant film, which will become unavailable sometime after 2009. So much of our family histories were recorded on Polaroid film. We discovered the joys of “instant” pictures.

I was a teenager when the Swinger Land camera made its appearance in the market. You might remember those sometimes fuzzy black and white pictures and the gooey, chemical stick that needed to be rubbed on the image to keep it stable. But, oh, it was instant…or at least as instant as any product available for a teenager to use. And the Swinger by the community pool added to the fun because EVERYBODY wanted to be in the picture.

During a television interview in 2007, Oprah Winfrey remarked that her Swinger camera, a gift from a fan, was the first thing she would want to save in a fire. As a teenager, she could not afford one and so, that inability to own one became part of her personal history. As one of the richest women in the United States, Oprah could afford just about any object she wished. But that Swinger camera was so much a part of her past that the fan’s gift filled a hole in her personal history.

Harry McCracken recently held a nostalgic “wake” of sorts for Polaroid, complete with You Tube videos. Remember the James Garner and Mariette Hartley partnership (when viewers wondered if they were married), Hugh Laurie of “House” and the Muppets as spokesmen and the advertising jingle for the Swinger? You shouldn’t miss all the videos at

The blog posting doesn’t mention how aspiring “artists” discovered Polaroid could be a canvas when we learned how to move the emulsion around before the image set. All of sudden, a face could appear distorted or a head could sprout horns. It was all part of the fun of Polaroid.
But family history was recorded for posterity on Polaroid film.

When my child was born, my husband and I didn’t have a camera with us to record his first few hours, but the hospital did. It was a Polaroid. Over time that image has begun to fade so it has now been digitized and archived to stop the passage of time. Without Polaroid, that instant in our family's history would not have been recorded.

The thrill of watching an image appear as the photograph developed will soon be lost. Somehow the convenience of digital cameras doesn’t replace the emotion that was part of Polaroid.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Will California wildfires convince people of the need to archive their photos?

The California wildfires and National Public Radio interviews with people who have escaped disasters finally drove me to add a posting to this blog.

All the people interviewed said the first things they grabbed when they were forced to leave their homes with short notice were their photographs. And yet, here we are with options out the wazoo for protecting our family photographs and home movies (particularly when it could free up the time and space to save other precious items) and still people will wait until the last moment (if there is even a last moment) to keeping their images from destruction.

I grew up in a household that had lost so many family photographs in a storage fire. As my profile shows, I never had the opportunity to see the faces of many relatives who had died before I was born. So, the photographs would have been a wonderful way to see the characteristics that family members always love to compare: whose eyes do I have or did great-grandfather Perry have curly hair like I have?

Understandably, there are challenges to archiving these images. So, here are some guidelines for choosing a site for your photos and movies:

  • Find a company that has solid financial backing, particularly if there is a company that is diversified and draws financial support from other types of services.

  • Look for a company that will allow you to make a modest payment in return for a promise to retain your photographs for many years to come. A number of companies will keep your photographs online so long as you buy something annually. If you miss the email reminder from the company, your photos will be gone.

  • Look for a company that will also archive your home movies so these will be available with sight and sound for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

  • Make certain the company will allow you to access your photo collection online so that you can still enjoy and share your images while they are safely protected.

In making a full disclosure, I have joined a company that provides everything I thought was important to people (and to my family) to protect these images. It also allows me to help them do what needs to be done to keep those memories safe and give them peace of mind.

And when those images are safe, the people associated with them will live forever. What a better legacy to leave to future generations