Each of the older family photos that I have in my possession is sacred to me, but as much as they captivate me, I have to remind myself not to romanticize the past.
Photos give us the impression of holding history in our hands and being able to retrace its physical form with our curious eyes and fingertips. That grasp, however, only skims the surface -- faces, buildings, trees and sky, a smile, a shirt collar, a hand grasping a hem. These freeze-frame moments make little sense without context, without the story that, sadly, sometimes, no one is left to tell.
Even as photos answer questions, new ones spring from them. That which we see before us, seemingly so clearly, we do not always understand.
As for me, I cannot separate the photo from my vantage point. I can tell a story or comment on details, but I also know that this story, those details, are rarely objective, impartial. They are always filtered through my perceptions of the past and my place in the present.
Part of the reason why old photos appeal to me is that even as I hold them in my hands, I must accept that which is intangible: the past will always elude me. Even the past that made me.