Capturing Time with Great Grandparents

I’m a visual person. In my childhood house, there was a photograph of me visiting my Granny — my maternal great grandmother — framed in our living room. That photo helped me remember the visit, even though I was just three. Waiting for her on the bench outside her building, feeling the warm weather, getting a lollipop, sitting there with her.

Knowing the power photographs have on my memory, I try to offer my children the same chance to remember through pictures, especially the family they may not know later in life. They were lucky enough to have three great grandparents alive during their childhood. My grandad was as happy as we were were CJ was born, watching him hold his newborn great grandson was one of the most amazing moments of my life. I planted a framed picture of Grandad holding CJ as a baby right where CJ could always see in, in hopes of helping him keep his memory of him alive. My grandad passed away when CJ was three, but CJ talks about him, points out his building whenever we pass it, asks about him in heaven. I hope he always does.

Great Grandaddy and CJ

Their Great Grandma, Grandad’s wife, also just passed, and within the same weekend we had the chance to take the kids to Connecticut to visit their “Little Grandma” — my dad’s mom. I wanted to bring Little Grandma the same joy I saw in my Granny’s face in that living room photograph, and I wanted to give my kids the same chance to remember her.

Now the challenge: How to be respectful of your elder, especially one who you always knew to be meticulous, while also creating a photograph that can capture that moment in time for your kids?

I opened up my aperture (the ones below are shot at f/3.2 and f/2.8, and the rest ranged from that to f/4.0) and focused on the children. That way the kids are crisp (albeit grainy, because of the high ISO) while Little Grandma was gently softened in the background. You can see her, but the details are deliberately blurry.


Also, I tried to stay at the kids’ level. I wanted to capture the scene as they might envision and remember it.

And lastly, I just took pictures. I knew they wouldn’t be perfect — the apartment is tiny, and even with a 24 mm lens, there was only so much I could get in the frame. It was also very dim, so I really had to up my ISO, adding the undesirable grain. But now they can remember flipping through her photo albums, demonstrating The Elmo Slide, and introducing her to all their Paw Patrol buddies. And that little smile, the slightly curved up lip, on Little Grandma’s face means the most.


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