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Housecalls: The power of personal photographs

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Posted: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 11:03 am

In an attempt to choose the best photos from my daughter’s wedding for our album, recently I spent several hours lost in a sea of images: of the smiling faces, teary eyes, long-fulfilled fantasies and celebratory dancing of several generations of friends and family. My job is to choose from 900 one-of-a-kind images, and edit them down to 50 I want preserved. Not an easy task, when the subject matter is the happy marriage of a very photogenic daughter from a large, affectionate family…

Hours later, as I stand at our funky wine bar and open a bottle for dinner, I (as always) gaze at a photograph of my girlfriends taken on a getaway several years ago at a tasting room in Napa. It again reminds me how powerful our personal photos can be.

If we are lucky, we accumulate an array of baby, school, graduation, wedding and anniversary photos through the years. We may dearly love most, if not all of the faces represented, and pretty soon these photos completely fill our shelves, walls and tabletops. And, as with anything good, it is hard to appreciate anything beautiful when there is an excess.

So our goal becomes minimizing the quantity while maintaining the quality. Each photo in your home should provoke a distinct feeling or memory; the aforementioned picture of my girlfriends immediately transports me to a time when we were all younger, skinnier, and thrilled to be away from home and with each other. We were young mothers, out of town, with no responsibilities, enjoying our freedom, oblivious to the unimagined potential of the future. Every time I see this picture, it makes me smile wistfully.

Because of that, I imagine this particular image will remain on our wine bar indefinitely.

On the other hand, we must continue to edit images that are less fulfilling. With the wedding photos, for example, I had to choose one or two images that represent each aspect of the affair. I discovered that one sister-in-law is overly represented, and a brother, relatively absent, for example. Since I love them both too much to be objective, an attempt at balance is a rational way to insure relativity.

Suggestions for making the most of your favorite family photos: create a gallery with matching frames or matting. Replace the kids’ school photos with an updated one each year. After a decade or two, limit all the pictures to just a few favorites. Scatter framed photos throughout the home; friends and family in the guest room, family portraits in the hall, and beach snapshots in the bathroom, for example.

On the other hand, very special photographs can be enlarged and printed on a stretched canvas at most photo shops, and displayed and enjoyed as your primary art.

Whether historical, sentimental, or adorable, personal photos are an element we need to reassess regularly. Try to determine which of your collection still need to be displayed, what can be filed, and which no longer represent what they may have years ago.

After all, less is truly more, even though you have the most darling kids in the world.

Linda Lawrence is the owner of HouseCalls for Redesign. Contact her at or 728-2732, or visit

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