Becoming Purposeful

I’m a little embarrassed to say it, but I have thousands of digital images on the external drive I use for storing photos. Many of them are pre-digital—scans of negatives and prints that preserve memories of long ago times, our early married years, cherished images of our daughter as a newborn, and then, later, as a toddler and preschooler, all the way through high school and college. Others record a lifetime of travel and vacation memories to many of the U.S.’s most historic and scenic locations. More recent additions to this digital library come from my newfound interest in digital photography.

I’ll be the first to admit that many of these images aren’t great—heck, most aren’t even good—but the memories they record, and the stories they prompt, are beyond precious to me. So, the question is—what am I to do with all these images? Or, more to the point, why do I even take photos? For me, a good part of it is the intellectual challenge of mastering the complexities of digital photography and post-processing. Beyond that is the artistic challenge of envisioning and then capturing an interesting image. However, assuming success for each of these, what am I to do with all these images? (yes, I know I’m repeating myself!)

My interest in photography is because I was first a scrapbooker. I feel that it’s important to document, in both words and pictures, my time and place in history. It’s not that I think my life is anything special, because even I realize it’s not! But I do know that I wish I knew more about my ancestors’ lives (probably to them mostly ordinary, but to me both interesting and extraordinary) and, to the extent my descendants might be interested, I hope my scrapbook pages will convey to them some of the everyday details of my time on earth.

The image above is a scrapbook layout I completed for Jana Morton’s Blending & Beyond** e-course at Get It Scrapped. Her “spillover” technique uses layer masks and blending to extend portions of the image over and beyond the picture’s digital frame. As I searched through my photo collection looking for an image with a long enough foreground to be suitable for the project, I discovered that I really didn’t have much to choose from for this or very many other scrapbooking projects. It was then that I realized I need to think about what I intend to do with an image before I shoot it in order to compose it in a way that will make it useful for my end purpose. I know this should have been obvious to me from the very beginning, and on some level it probably was, but this process cemented the idea for me. From now on I’ll be working hard to merge purpose with technical and artistic considerations to, hopefully, capture images that do more than just take up space on my hard drive.

** Jana’s class is absolutely amazing! If you are a digital scrapper, you simply must check this out. Her matter-of-fact approach to blending images with digital backgrounds and then adding (and blending) overlays, text, and embellishments simplifies what would otherwise be a daunting task.

This post is my response to an assignment in Kat Sloma’s Journey of Inspiration course, part of her Find Your Eye series.

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7 thoughts on “Becoming Purposeful

  1. I think sometimes the purpose is only revealed to us many years down the line. I wish I had many many more pictures of our family before bereavement and illness took its toll – if we had been taking lots of pictures at the time, we would have had no idea how important they would have become in the future

  2. Great questions Wanda! They take us back to the start of the Find Your Eye journey – and why you love photography and take photographs in the first place. It’s an interesting question – do you need to take photos with an end product in mind or not? Certainly, if you want to do something with them like this technique (which is super cool, by the way) then yes. Otherwise? You’ll have to answer that for yourself.

    For me? I’m ok with having thousands of unused photos on my hard drive. I love the process of taking photos as much as anything that comes after. Maybe more. If I never use them, then they still served their purpose as part of my creative process. One of the best things I did to increase my enjoyment of photography was stop feeling like I had to “use” the images in any way. That I capture them, that is enough for me.

  3. Wanda,
    I must say that this is an amazing scrapbook page – what a fantastic idea to extend the photo image beyond the frame – I love the concept as well as your execution of it.
    You also ask good questions about our purpose for snapping the shutter button – something I will need to think more about.

  4. Wanda, you raise a really good point here. I’ve been thinking about how to handle the hundreds of photos I typically take on any given photo shoot. It’s overwhelming just to review them and pick out the best ones. Which one is “best” when I have multiple shots differing only by a hair? And what am I going to do with them, anyway? I want, as you said so well, to “capture images that do more than just take up space on my hard drive.”

  5. Sian did a post on ‘should we use blurry pics?’ just a week or so ago and I’m actually using one in ‘Storytelling Sunday’…exactly because it’s the only one I’ve got from that point in time..and I’m so glad that it didn’t get thrown away! I know what you mean about trying to take pics you might ACTUALLY do something with though. Thanks for your comment on my blog…and if you don’t mind, I’m going to use the ‘warm hearts…’ quote on one of the pages- loved it!
    Alison xx

  6. That’s a great page and thank-you for the pointer – a technique I’d love to be able to do so I’ll be off to explore in a moment. I am spending part of this weekend thinking about photos and what to do with them, and how to take/store them so this is a great prompt and comforting that someone else is doing the same!

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