I am the last one of a family of seven children. My parents are ordinary people, but their vision to invest their children’s education has impacted our lives dramatically.
For a long time, I always thought that I grew up in a poor and hard-working family. Now I live in this diversity country for three decades, I then realized what poverty really is. If we have daily bread on the table and our parents manage to satisfy what we need (not always what we want), theoretically we are not poor. Particularly with so many kids to be educated, I think my parents have done an extraordinary job.
In December 2011, I made a trip back to California to visit my siblings. A conversation about making our family history photo book to honor our parents came up. While I was there, I immediately began to select and photograph old photos from my sibling’s albums. However, we seven kids live in three different countries and we are all grand parents now. It is a major undertaking to gather pictures and data from my siblings and their children (and grandchildren), edited and resized, added captions or descriptions, placed pictures on pages in chronological order per each individual, wrote stories for each family or individual from childhood to the present and traced our family origin.
First I built the outline of the book, placed photos on the pages, and started to write stories. I ‘interviewed’ my siblings through emails, phones and skype calls. To me, writing stories is the most fulfilling part of the work. I started out as a photographer and photo editor, and then, I was a journalist and later a historian. This is absolutely a life-changing experience for me to dictate and compile a visual history that I have not known much. Listening to my older sibling’s stories is just like going back to our childhood all over again. Foremost, we all realized how much we have ‘inherited’ from our parents that we were not aware, and how poignantly we miss our parents now.
After one year and 3 month of routinely endless efforts, I finally sent the book out to be printed in March 2013. Anything that I can get my hands on is pictured and written in this 160 pages book which is illustrated in both English and Chinese characters. If not for page limitations, I could easily double the size. Every member of our extended families (four generations) can now or later (for the 4th generation) go through the pages and get to know one another’s entire life to date. How cool is that!
|My family history book
(texture added to age the look)
As far as I have lived my life, there was not a moment when I am not pondering and rationalizing what I can do better and do differently if I could be young again. And, from this point on, how I can live a life that I won’t have regret when I eventually back to dust. Although I have made numerous photo books to record our family events, vacations, grand children’s birth and growth as well as family yearbooks. This family history book is definitely the most meaningful and substantial work.
|Etc. photo books|
So, what’s next to my agenda in addition to my regular photography activities?
Our younger generation is doing a much better job keeping track of their life activities. Digital photography has also made it easier. One thing the young parents do not have is Time. They are either advancing their career or dedicated to raise our grand children. I think it is a good job for grand parents to be the photographer and record keeper. A photo says thousand words. It is so much easier to snap a shot than try to describe how precious and innocent our grand children’s facial expressions are, isn’t it? Record keeping for a family is essential. We might as well start from now, and in an organized manner. In that case, our children won’t need a 15 month time to finish a family history and you can have a yearbook every year.
My younger daughter lives in Seattle area now. Not too far, but it is not a trip that I can or want to take as often. Whenever I am there, I am looking for portrait opportunities….