Photos of people laughing—especially group shots of people laughing—are jewels for memory keepers. A picture tells a thousand words; we love seeing the happiness and camaraderie. However, many times there’s a story behind the smiles and we still need words to tell the story.
Story behind the Smiles
It annoys me to no end that I can’t remember what we were laughing about in the photo to the left. At the time that I took it (with a remote), I thought I would always remember what the joke was. But I don’t. Although the joke is frozen in time on our faces, the story behind the smiles is currently lost to me.
In contrast, I clearly remember what made us smile so naturally in the photo to the right. As he prepared to hoist himself up on the limb, one of us had a big surprise. His launch foot stepped onto a hidden plastic bag of dog poo that then exploded outward. We could barely hold ourselves upright for the photo.
Tell the story of the day’s events
There might not have been a joke at the very moment of the photograph, but you can tell what happened that day. Was it the last day of a family reunion? A shared holiday? Are there ruddy cheeks because the kids all played a game of softball or soccer?
What else happened that day, weekend or trip
Sometimes it’s only in retrospect that we realize a page turned around the time that the shutter opened and shut. For instance, it might be the last time that an older family member was living independently. Perhaps it was the last time that the kids were small enough that you could get all of them away from their extracurricular commitments.
Why the story behind the smiles matters
You want to preserve the carefree moments and the natural smiles. Though the photograph alone goes a long way towards doing just that, loved ones crave more. They want to understand the individuals and relationships.
Tell your own story
Look back at a photo of yourself and tell the story behind your smile. Did you have life by the tail? Were you apprehensive? Self-conscious? For inspiration see the Daily Mail’s The day the camera loved us: Five women tell the poignant and surprising stories behind their favourite photos.
If there’s no story
Especially if you have few photos of an individual, explain whether the photo is representative. “Uncle Joe’s signature smile” or “My cousin caught in a rare moment of pensiveness” opens doors to understanding.
For example, I remember looking at a photo of my husband’s grandfather laughing. My immediate question was “Was he as approachable as he looks in this photo?” The photo showed me a moment in time; I wanted to know about a lifetime.