Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mom's Photo Album and the Out-of-Focus Photos

At the moment I am the care-taker of my mother's old photo album. When my sister asked to borrow it (twice!), I told her I wasn't finished with it yet. Last week I decided to scan the photos I want to save and print, or use for this blog. And then I decided it would be good to scan every page to have as a reference. When I'm finished and I see her again, I'll give it into my sister's care for a while.

I think the cover of the album is beautiful with its rich, dark green color, the embossed decoration, and the gold lettering. The album is also attractive for its size, 10" by 7", and the cord that ties on the side.

From the time I was a child I thought my mother was very, very particular about things. Perhaps that wasn't so if this album is evidence. I was surprised to see the haphazard way in which the photos were put in the album, some askew, others hodge-podge on the pages. Perhaps she had to hurry to finish a page or two because a toddler had just awoken from a nap....

The paper of old black pages has not held up well through the years. As I turn the leaves to look at the photos I find specks and crumbs and dust and flakes of black on the table and on my hands. I think the photos need to be ever-so-carefully removed (if that's possible because of the glue that attaches them to the pages), new pages cut, and the photos reattached in some non-destructive method. I didn't think I should undertake the job without the approval of my sister and possibly my brother, and especially without researching options. Perhaps we will agree that it should be done. Or perhaps research will suggest that it shouldn't be done. I'll think about that problem later.

My current predicament, though, is this: probably a third or more of the photos in this dear old album are out of focus. They look like this:

Some of the blurry photos I don't give a wit about, but there are others.... For instance, the photo of the lady and child on the above, left page. That's my mother with a smile! A smile! And my brother, on the right, is also smiling.

On the pages in the middle and on the right are "twin" photos: my father on the left, perhaps taken by my mother; and my mother on the right, perhaps taken by my father. Same location, doing the same thing. Twins. Maybe it was a new camera and they were trying to get the hang of holding it still.

Again, on the middle page, left side, that's my father's cousin, Evie McClelland - the only photo I have of her that's almost not a photo at all - putting a curtain on a curtain stretcher. Why exactly anyone would want to take that particular photo, I don't know. But now that we have it, I do certainly wish it were in focus!

What to do about these photos? Of course the originals will stay where they are (unless we decide to change the paper). But what about copies? Make copies and lay them aside since (as far as I know) there's no way to fix them? Or forget I ever saw them?

Did your family save out-of-focus photographs or did they throw them away? If you have blurry photos, what do you do with them?

Copyright © 2010 by Nancy Messier.


  1. That photo album looks very much like my mother's photo albums (1930s-40s) - embossed cover, etc. They have that old, black paper, too. And, of course, there are some blurry photographs as well as a couple that are crumbling. I haven't figured out what to do, yet, either.

  2. My mother's photo collection is also full of blurry ones. I've asked her why she kept them but she doesn't really have an answer, she just did. They are now in newly organized photo boxes (they weren't in albums to start with so I didn't have that issue). I thought about getting rid of the really bad ones when I put them in the boxes recently but couldn't make myself do it. It's funny, I've never had a problem throwing away (or now deleting) bad pictures that I took.

  3. My parents had many albums like this one. My mother had actually taken many of the photos out several years ago and put them in magnetic page albums that are now all yellow with age. They had many "out of focus" pictures as well, but cameras were not as "user friendly" back then and printing was much more expensive. I guess they figured for what they paid for them, they better keep all the pictures! :)

  4. It looks like I'm not the only one with blurry photos. In thinking more about this, I suppose that my mom, having lived through the depression, felt the need to save everything, including blurry photos. I'm so thankful for digital cameras. It's so easy to take too many photos and just delete the crummy ones. Of course, in my case, the ones I save rarely get printed.

    Thanks for all your comments, ladies.

  5. We have the same project and problem as far as what to do with photos glued to the old black pages. I'm writing a 3 part article about how I've handled it. Check it out and let me know what you think.

  6. Nancy, In your comment over on my blog you had mentioned converting TIFF files to JPEG. I was reading some older posts at
    The Family Curator
    today. In one of them she mentions using a program called Xnview to batch convert files from TIFF to JPEG. I haven't had a chance to check it out yet but it looks like it could be helpful.

    The article is called Tech Tuesday: Tools for Transcribing Documents and was posted 26 May 2009.

    Hope this helps!

  7. Hi! I am new to your blog - enjoying it, thank you! The curtain-stretching photo, especially, is very interesting. I never knew such a thing existed. I've seen pants-stretchers, though. Maybe the blurry photos have some historical significance, if not sentimental? And perhaps future generations will appreciate them in an "arty" kind of way? I say, keep 'em!

  8. Hi, Mary-Alice. Glad you found my blog and left a comment. It seems that the curtain stretchers were primarily used for lace curtains. They were usually cotton and shrank after washing. I remember my grandmother having some but I don't remember her using them very often. In fact, I don't remember her having lace curtains, but she must have if she used the stretchers.

    Thanks for your input about keeping the photos or not. I still have them (or copies of them) and can't quite bring myself to hit that delete button.

    I hope you come back and visit often.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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