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Friday, January 8, 2010

Who are Those Strange People in our Living Room? A Photo Essay Idea Looking for a Home

Portrait of Family at Party
We bought our current home from a sweet, old, German couple who entertained their extended family in it for many years. It occurred to me that their photo albums were likely replete with hundreds of pictures of people having a grand old time in OUR house. You know, friendly-looking strangers posing by our basement fireplace, in our dining room, perhaps on our front steps; strange kids playing in our backyard--get the idea?

I can imagine sticky photo album pages (you know the ones) with aunts and uncles, children and grandkids, nieces, nephews, and family friends; their faces often smiling, sometimes sad, stressed perhaps. All these folks we never knew, lived out their times in what is now our home. But the evidence of that resides in disparate photo albums spread all over who knows where.

I've often thought "why couldn't a person assemble a few pictures of every clan, every family of owners that has ever inhabited a given house?" What if the project documented two or three generations of people enjoying the same physical space, but in different eras.

Take the old home I grew up in downtown before what was to be my Grade 6 move across town. There could be shots of a war-time bride and groom cuddling in sitting room listening to the radio, a sixties family watching Ed Sullivan in what had now become living room, a young college student off to study in Europe, a single nurse or a widow sitting in an easy chair talking to the boarders she took in to help pay the mortgage.

That home could have had five or six sets of owners, I have no idea. But each would have chronicled their lives in rooms that were familiar to every one of us. A kitchen that would have seen thousands of meals and conversations, light and serious. A living room that gave respite from pressures and worries, and provided opportunities for kids to show off to visitors. Stairs that were skipped over by kids, and loomed like mountains to the infirm. Every room would have seen its share of sheer joy, setbacks, boredom.

Well, I´ve never got around to doing the detective, perhaps even geneological, work it would take to assemble that kind photo essay. But in a wired world, with so many ways to connect, and so many tools to gather, present, and preserve images online, it's possible that someone has already done a project like this.

Sure would like to see one.

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