Sunday, February 20, 2011

Picture "Poppy" Project

As I've mentioned a couple times before, I've been working on an awesome project for my grandfather's upcoming 90th birthday.  I've always been close with my grandfather (we call him Poppy).  He's a real family-man, lavishing attention on his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Back when he was a little more mobile than he is now, he was also a fisher, a golfer, and a builder.  I still have a beautiful dollhouse he made me.
On top of all that, he's probably a large part of why I was a history major and want to take that passion further.  He has, over the years, put a lot of effort into gathering and documenting the history of his ancestors, including letter campaigns for documents to far-distant family members. He's made an effort to be accurate about documenting our family history, but then he also has no problem at all with embellishing history for a good story.

In honor of the effort Poppy has put toward documenting his family, I thought it would be nice to make an effort towards doing this for his own not-inconsiderable life.

For his birthday, my family members have been scanning and e-mailing me various family photos from various eras, and I'm making them into a photo book in vaguely narrative format.  The back has several pages guests at his birthday party can sign.

To do this, I've been using "booksmart", the software program lets you download for free to make digital scrapbooks, which, once you decide to publish them, will be printed by into real, physical books you can keep.  It's amazing!   
This is what booksmart looks like open on my computer.  It's pretty neat.

I've done this in the past for photos from the two plays I directed in college: Hello, Hamlet! and West Side Story (1).  It's amazing how much this digital scrap-booking medium improves on the original photo album or scrap-booking methods.  It's especially nice for preserving family photos because it allows you to duplicate and give extra life to treasured images that will degrade over time.  There are no acidic glue or gnawing rodents to be concerned about, and no worry that photos will fall out and get lost.  I love it.

I know that other digital photo printing websites allow you to do this; do you guys have other programs that you like?  I'm really interested in learning more about the possibilities of this format.

Anyway, the point of this is the photos themselves, and let me tell you, I've really relished getting to see more of them.  As you can see from this photo of my grandfather with my nephew, he's great with kids:
Poppy and my grandmother Mary (we call her Honey) have been married for 66 years.  That's quite an achievement.  As you know, I am involved in a few weddings, and I have to say, I'm extremely grateful that none of the brides in question has asked me to wear a mini veil or sheer elbow-length gloves.   
Here is Poppy with his brother O. J. during WWII.  Poppy was in the Army-Air Force band stationed in San Antonio.  Again with the style comments:  What was my great grandmother wearing on her head?
Here he is as a drummer in the Army-Air Force band.
 Poppy dressed up as a pretty hot dame for a USO show once.  Cute?  Um...
Here Poppy is with Honey before they were married.  Geez M, why haven't you ever taken me on a hot chicken-feeding date?
Poppy in my uncle's garage, trying out some vehicle I don't even know the name for.  Looks like a total bad-ass, no?
My great-grandfather was a dance instructor for a while, so needless to say, Poppy too a lot of dance classes and performed in a lot of recitals.
He was also an avid golfer for a great amount of time.

Another awesome old picture of Poppy as a child.  What a great costume, no?  I wish I knew what this was from, but I can't ask him until we get the book made and mailed to him. 
As you can see, his love of dressing up didn't leave him after childhood.
For years and years my grandfather made the family Christmas cards by staging photos with my mom and my uncle and then cutting those photos out, gluing them to poster-boards that he or my grandmother painted, and then taking pictures of the poster-boards to distribute.  Super retro chic, no?
It is so important to preserve these family gems.  These are the priceless little bits of ephemera that prove that forgotten generations had personality and humor and quirk, I hope Poppy enjoys this book, but I'm also looking forward to having it around for my kids and their kids as well.

1. I would like to stress that I did not take the majority of the photos in the photo books for Hello, Hamlet! and West Side Story. The majority of those credits go to Taylor Johnson and Deian Tabakov respectively.  I just directed the plays and put the books together, and since the books were intended for my consumption alone, I was casual with photo crediting.

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