So very grateful am I to have the old photographs that I have, although they are fewer in number than I would like. Each time I see a fellow blogger post 'found' photographs of an ancestor, my heart leaps for them because I know the joy such photos bring to me, and I imagine they feel the same way.
Often I find myself looking intently into the faces of those in the photos I do have, wondering what they are thinking, wondering what life was like for them at just that very moment. Did they 'pose' as we might do when a photograph is taken? Did they dislike having photos taken, or mistrust the medium of photography? Did they think they had 'a good side', and prefer to be photographed from that angle? In some photos it is clear that all the rules of portraiture were not yet in play, as those pictured look very uncomfortable posing for posterity.
It is, I suppose, easy for us who do family history research to judge a past life in its entirety, since we have knowledge that the individuals pictured did not have at the time these photos were taken. We know at least some details about how their lives were lived, how they ended, and how their stories turned out. In the very moment when they posed before the cameras they could not possibly know all that life would bring to them.
I was thinking about this a while ago as I looked at some photographs of my father when he was a child, such as the one above. In the picture my father is the little boy with the shy smile seated in the front on the far right. There were times, when I was growing up, that I observed my father in solitude, and at those times he seemed to have a heavy heart. There was a sort of shadow that would come over his face, sadness hung heavy in the room, and he would be lost in thought. When I look at the few images that I have from his childhood there is none of this, no sadness, no longing; there is only sheer joy in his face. Sometimes I wish I could climb into those old photographs and share the energy of that joy with him. It is enough to know that he experienced it, and it is good to be reminded that he had joy in his childhood, no matter what else life brought his way.
For me, no matter how small it may be, a picture or a photograph really is worth a thousand words, and much more, because it encapsulates the emotions, hopes, and dreams that were there in that very moment in which our loved ones were captured with the click of a shutter.
Click on image to view larger version.
In the photo: Magee and Geraghty family members on holiday at Rush, North County Dublin.
My father Michael is the little boy in the front row, far right. His eldest brother Patrick is in the front row, far left.
Their first cousin Rita Magee is front row centre, the other children are her siblings.
Adults standing: Mollie Magee Halpin and her brother Frank Magee.
Adults seated: left: Anne Maher Magee (Frank's wife); right: great-grandmother Mary Dunne Magee.