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Whether stuffed in a desk drawer or spread across a computer screen, everyday snapshots have profound meaning. Photographic images of familiar people and places provoke family narratives that give meaning to the past and present, just as they imply a future, says Kristin Baxter, visiting assistant professor of art at Moravian College. Recollections of Family Photographs from Five Generations: the Role of Narrative and Reflexivity in Organizing Experience, a new book by Baxter, explores how individuals assign meaning to family snapshots and whether art educators might use these images and the dialogues they inspire as a basis for curriculum design. The book grew from Baxter’s 2001 exhibition, recollections, which included ten family photographs and embellished bits of ephemera displayed as fine art.
Want to take a closer look at the meaning of your own family photographs? Notice the way your memory of the subject can differ slightly each time you view the photo, suggests Baxter. Also notice where you keep photos: on a laptop, in a shoe box, stuffed in a wallet, etc. When viewing a family photo, ask, “How does this represent what matters most to us?”