For centuries, having one’s portrait made was a momentous occasion. The honor was reserved for only wealthy or influential people because sitting for a painting was cost-prohibitive for most folks. By the end of the 19th century, the art of photography made portraits a luxury the common folk could finally enjoy. It was an event to get a family portrait— a means of capturing an age in a family’s history. The result was a keepsake to treasure.
Somehow by the end of the 20th century, we took a step backwards. Family portraits became fewer and further between, reserved for only weddings, graduations and newborns. As technology made cameras less expensive and more accessible, portraits became an idea shuffled to the back burner. The easier it became for people to take snapshots of day to day events, the more likely they were to put off the family portrait.
This resulted in a loss for many of us— a generation gap in the family photo collection. Children grew up, adults went from college to middle age, beloved older relatives passed away, and all that remained to immortalize these transitional years were some poorly lit, badly composed vacation and holiday snapshots, yellowing with age in an album.
Displayed in the home, portraits are powerful visual stimulants. They evoke feelings and memories, taking us back to a time gone by with just a glance.
As new people come into the family — by birth or by marriage — family portraits communicate the story of our lives. Sharing those stories, like rites of passage, brings newcomers into the fold. New family portraits that include them then paint these people into the landscape of our family history.
A collection of portraits on display creates a living gallery that maps the ages and stages of family life. Each individual image adds to the bigger picture— a picture of our past and present. This bigger picture can be a comfort to us as we plan for the future.