tell your life story with 20 pictures

Well, maybe it’s more like a collection of very short stories. My point is, it’s easy to get started. Pull out 20 – or 12 or 37 – photos. [How about 17 for a haiku?] Write down the who-what-where and -when of each one. Then write a little more. Give it some context. What happened just before the picture was taken? What happened afterwards? Who’s not in the frame? What do you remember thinking and feeling then? How do you think about this event now?

Put them together in some way – a scrapbook, a photo album, a print-on-demand book.

I just went through this exercise to make a sample book for a new product I’m offering: a Snapshot Stories™ book. Without a lot of thought, I grabbed 20 photos that happened to be already digitized and accessible on my computer. They range from when I was about three years old to…well, let’s just say, fairly recently. They show my growing up years, my time living abroad and traveling, my immersion in graduate studies and a creative practice. They include family and friends and lovers and colleagues. Without giving much thought to themes or structures, they paint a picture of my life in broad strokes.

If I were to go through this exercise again I might choose 20 different photos. Or I might tell slightly different stories about these photos because each time I revisit the events and people in my life, I see them from a different perspective.

What is important is to start capturing our stories. Stories of what it’s been like to be a particular person, living in a particular time and place. Then getting them into some format that can be passed on to future generations. Wouldn’t you love to come across a book of captioned photos that your great-great-grandmother put together? Or even  someone who is no relation but who lived a hundred years ago in the house where you live now? I imagine people in 2052 or 2087 will be just as intrigued to come across our stories and photos.

We all have stories that only we can tell. Let’s get them down and pass them on.


a page from my sample book:


This is my favorite photo of myself. It was taken in the British Virgin Islands around 1969/70. We started barboat chartering there with my father [name removed] in the late 60s – he would organize people from his Power Squadron and he invited me and whatever boyfriend I was with at the time, my roommate and her boyfriend, and we’d go for 7-10 days. This picture was taken at the end of the day – I always felt so myself on the boat, on the water. Never more than when we made the blue-water crossing from St. Thomas to St. Croix.