There is no doubt about it, this is a digital world in which we live. From phones to computers to cars, you name it, almost everything we deal with has ties to technology. More and more books are being read online and when it comes to photographs, the technology makes it easy for anyone to share snapshots. Social medias allow us to share our lives with just a click of a button. Unfortunately, most of those photographs are never printed and as time goes by, few may remember who are what the photo is about.
Befrore the digital age, families recorded important events with film photography. Whether with a professional photograph or the family’s “Instamatic” film camera, we were most careful to get a few shots of the family Christmas or the baby’s first birthday before we ran out of film. These photographs were developed and printed and put in an album for the family to view and reminisce of that important family event. Many families have closets full of old photographs and albums sometimes just randomly organized. As generations pass, few remember who the individuals are in the photos or the event that was recorded. For one local resident, the desire to organize these family photos has become a huge project and has helped other family members and friends find photos of events from days gone by.
Kim Apt Beckham has been extensively organizing her family photos since she graduated from high school in 1974. Beckham has picked up this project from her late mother who wrote information on the back of every photo. But it wasn’t until Facebook that Beckham really plunged into this task. With an extensive collection of family photos, it was then that she realized that not everybody had the photos that she had. Not only does she have the pictures, but due to her mother’s diligence in writing everything down, she knows who is in the photo and where they were taken and the month and the year they were taken. In the last few years, Beckham has had all her pictures converted to digital and cataloged in index books. The photos cataloged in each book are saved digitally on two disc copies and stored in two different places. The original photos are filed in file boxes according to the catalog dates and information. As a result of this extensive catalog system, Beckham can go to any photo with very little information. Each original photo has all the information written on the back and these same photos have the same information displayed in the index catalogs. In this way, Beckham is able to keep track of thousands of family photos and document their contents for future generations.
Although she started doing this with photos after high school, Beckham recalls not really getting started until she went on a trip to Ireland for a semester of college. She recalls some of her friends having really expensive cameras and she had two inexpensive “Instamatic” cameras. Every time she took a photo, she would meticulously log the information in a notebook to remember who was in the photo and when, where, and what the photo was about and which frame it was. Her friends laughed at her methodical approach to photographing the whole trip until they got home. One of them had their camera stolen, one of them did not have pictures that turned out and the other didn’t take very many photos. Beckham had copies of the whole trip and later her friends were able to get copies. It was then she realized how important it was to document and keep records of the photos taken. Since that time, Beckham has been able to help family members and friends who need photos of individuals from days gone by for funeral videos, anniversaries and other events where older photos are needed. Remarkably, she can go right to the photos they need and provide them with the digital copies very quickly. “That’s been an honor for me.” States Beckham. She has been able to help families find photos of their loved ones that they previously did not have for various reasons.
As well as being diligent with the photographs, Beckham’s mother was also a fabulous seamstress and made all the beautiful dresses and hats that Beckham wore as a child. With the dresses as preserved as well as the photos, Beckham could display the dress and the photos of her wearing the dress as a child. Beckham’s organizational skills are amazing. Being from Kansas, Beckham returns there for visits often. In years past, she would load the back seat of the car with photo albums but these days she takes discs and catalogs to family events. “Throw back Thursday [on Facebook] is my favorite day of the week.” Declares Beckham. She is a wealth of information for her family and friends.
Beckham utilizes the expertise of her high school journalism teacher, Gene Schmidt. Beckham reconnected with him and his wife Peggy on Facebook. Schmidt was a professional photographer in Kansas and in his retirement he has begun the service of photo preservation. He produces the discs and catalog indexes for the photographs that Beckham sends to him.
Although most photography is done digitally these days, the organizational skills that Beckham uses for the older photographs can also be used for digital photos. Documenting the people, places and events in a photo can make it valuable for generations to come. As Beckham stated, “A photo with no information is just a photo.” This is so true.