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2014 Memory Jar Project

Posted on December 31st, 2013

2014 Memory Jar

2014 Memory Jar

I have been reading about the concept of “Happiness Jars.” In Elizabeth Gilbert’s blockbuster memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” she started a project where she would write down things that have made her happy each day on little slips of paper and put them in this large glass jar. By doing so every day, eventually her jar would overflow with happiness.

I am proposing something similar but let’s call it a Memory Jar or more aptly, the Memoir Jar. Starting tomorrow, January 1st 2014, make a little note when something memorable in your life happens. You finally cook that amazing Paella, you finished the needlepoint you started 15 years ago, reminiscing with your grandmother, the new client you got, whatever happens to you this year that makes you pause a moment and smile at the poignancy you are a part of.

Write it down. Not a big drawn-out autobiography or journal entry. A little slip of paper that represents a moment. Put them in the jar. The point of all this is at the end of 2014, you will have a jar full of moments that have defined your year. These moments are what define our lives; a string of them laid out, from year to year that we look back on.

Being a creative, I can see all kinds of possibilities for projects with something like this. Animating the little slips into a short movie. A Year In The Life. A book project with photographs to go along with the slips, the possibilities are endless.

If you take this project on, please let me know and let’s see what you’ve created this time next year.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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Posted in Family Memories

My Reality of Attending a School Reunion

Posted on October 28th, 2013

I recently attended my 40th class school reunion out in Southern California. There was a whirlwind of activities, two parties on a Friday night, the real reunion on Saturday night and then a brunch picnic the following Sunday morning. I didn’t attend the brunch, choosing instead to have breakfast with a small group of woman I have known since I was a very young girl. It was a good choice. It allowed us an intimate time to reflect on our lives and the past two days, and I didn’t want to leave.

In the work I do, reunions are a common scenario as people choose life cycle events as a way to honor and celebrate. Whether it be a family reunion, significant anniversary or birthday, memorializing it with a tribute video is one way to celebrate and create something as a memento. So I  get to experience a lot of people’s reunions through a professional lens.

For me, I had an unusual school experience. I grew up in the same town in Los Angeles and went to one specific school with the same group of people through 7th grade. In 8th grade, my father got a wild hair up his behind and moved our entire family up to Fairbanks Alaska where he ran an amusement park themed around the Alaska Gold Rush. We lived up there for a little over a year and I didn’t get to be part of my 8th grade school graduation. Then we came back to LA where I went to the local High School with my old group of friends and stayed there for 2 years. Then we moved back east and I attended a different school (that’s a story I’ll save for another time) and graduated with that group.

The important thing to remember here is context of time. Back in those days, there was no internet or social media. When you left somewhere or someone, it was for real. A goodbye was a real goodbye. Not like now where you say goodbye to someone and then see them three hours later on Facebook posting photos of their time with you.

If you left somewhere, you would not see these people for years unless you physically wrote them a letter or called them on the telephone which was a long-distance call and could be quite costly. I obviously lost track of a great many people.

Going back to my hometown, seeing a lot of these people after many, many years was a joyous experience. It was in many ways a coming full-circle for me. To be able to followup with people I had unwillingly lost touch with helped confirm a lot of the things I knew about myself and my life. At one of the Friday evening parties, my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Durocher, was there. We were her first class out of college and she must not have been more than a dozen years older than us at the time. I remember her so well and I remember my own joy and anticipation as the class bought her a puppy, and all the things that went with it, as a parting gift at the end of the school year. She came with photos of the dog, which she kept for 14 years, as well as other photos of the class and all the teachers at the time.

Connecting with so many old friends again, what really struck me was how easily I slid back into talking and being with all the people I was good friends with back then. It felt like the years had never passed. The personalities and energies that had us originally become friends was still there and it was so easy to reconnect without having to catch people up with all the minutia of the years in between. Some of us will be using this as a launching point to continue our friendships into the future, while for others, we may not see each other until the next major reunion.

I find that at social events, I’m either there 100% present, or I am behind the camera trying to document the event. I can never seem to manage doing both successfully. So I ended up the next day with maybe 4 or 5 photos on my iPhone. Photos trickled onto Facebook over the next week or so and a wonderful group photo was taken although I haven’t seen that yet. I wish I had taken more photos because, if you’ve been paying attention in class, the physical memoirs are all we have after our own memories are gone. But I am also aware that this was something much bigger. That I took part in something that wasn’t at all concrete for most people, and what lives in my memory will be something more important that I can share down the road,  with my friends and family.

Still… having said that, I’m now thinking of  ways to gather up all the photos that were taken that night and create some type of montage! You can take the girl out of the profession, but you can’t take the profession out of the girl.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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Posted in Personal History

Photographer Rachel Phillips; Field Notes

Posted on September 8th, 2013

Sometimes you see something visual and it just resonates with you on such a deep level that it starts the beginnings of an interest, an obsession, or even a love affair.

I was in the Catherine Couturier Gallery a couple months ago and came across a few pieces by artist Photographer Rachel Phillips, who considers herself a photographer yet uses her photography in such a unique manner via a transfer process that all her art works are one of a kind, completely unique. In her work entitled “Field Notes”, she transfers images to old letters, envelopes and aerograms. They are personal, in that each has a cancelled stamp from somewhere, and the name of who sent it or who it was sent to, some with letters or personal notations.  I had expressed some interest to Catherine, the gallery owner, and she said, wait a couple of months, Rachel has a show coming up and was bringing in a lot of new work.

Here is a video of her process:

Well the show’s opening was yesterday evening. Knowing that I wanted to purchase a piece for myself, I went in earlier in the afternoon and with the gallery to myself, I wandered around deciding and then un-deciding many times until I finally picked out two pieces that spoke to me on various levels. I loved the imagery on all of them, but one of the pieces held a personal connection for me in that it was an envelope, obviously fan mail, sent to Norma Talmadge, the silent film actress. The postmark date on one envelope is 3 11 1928. My first son was born on 3 11. The letter was sent to her care of United Artists in Hollywood California, where I grew up. The image is one of a child sleeping in a four poster bed, hunkered down under a duvet. One of the other elements in the piece was an envelope sent to someone in Staten Island New York from France. My family immigrated through Staten Island in the early 1900s. I was born in New York. I grew up in California, well I’m sure you are starting to see the connection to the piece.


Here is the second piece I bought below and it will eventually belong to my new grand-daughter, but for now, I will enjoy it. It’s called Greenwald Girl.

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 1.22.28 PM
The opening was great and I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Rachel for awhile and she explained how she ‘found’ this medium of expression. I am always excited by that; how people’s inspiration gets set on fire, what starts the process that becomes a project, a career, a life.

This morning, in the afterglow of excitement from purchasing her pieces and meeting her, and loving her show, I went to her website and found this in her Artist Statement:

“So often in our daily lives, our attention is fixed on the future—planning for Tomorrow.  And as artists, too, we rush to make new work, to take new pictures, to create, always, something new.  But what of the past?  Past lives?  Past work?  Past pictures?”

“The images are printed on old envelopes collected from around the world; artifacts from the last centuries. What did the envelopes contain? Where did they come from? In whose mailbox were they delivered? What stories do they tell?”

The key clicked in the lock. Well of course I love her work. We are committed to the same vision, telling stories that explain the past and honor those who came before us. Like detectives, we work with what we have to tell a story, usually of something that happened a long time ago, that connects to the audience on an emotional level. We are both committed to preserving history.

Rachel’s show will be up until October 19, 2013 so if you’re in Houston, you’ll have plenty of time to stop by and take a look at her work. Let me know if you do, and stop by here and leave a comment letting me know what you thought.

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Posted in Multimedia Storytelling, Photos & Snapshots, Preserving Memories

Photo Restoration Tips When Your Photos Are Fading

Posted on August 7th, 2013

Two photo of the same boy - one faded one corrected showing photo restoration

I once gave a presentation on photo restoration to a local historical group.. I stood up and said,
“It’s 10 o’clock…. do you know where your photos are?” Everyone gave a chuckle because most were familiar with that old public service announcement that used to play right before the local news. But people also laughed because they thought about their own photos, sitting in shoe boxes, quietly fading into obscurity or sitting on their computer hard-drives with names such as DSC00456.jpg. Easy to find right?

Photography has made such leaps and bounds in the almost 200 years since it was invented. But not all of the technology has been good nor has it been kind to our pasts. Most photo papers from the 60s and 70s are now very faded or all the green has dropped out and the photo looks faded and rusty. In the 90s, a lot of people moved to slides and of course people now have huge boxes with slides mixed up from many years, with no context other than the date stamp of when the slide was developed.

In the early 2000s, with the advent of digital photography, people started to download their digital photos on their computers but most of them had no context for how to organize them and now, in 2013, there are some great books, such as the DAM Book, and self-help websites such as Scan Your Entire Life for people trying to make sense of years of old photos.

I am a big advocate of all of this and have been working on this very thing with my own family for over 10 years now. I’m still not there and have accepted that it’s an organic process. But where I recommend people start is with the oldest first. Your oldest photos are your most fragile and the most easy to slip into obscurity.

Organizing and identifying the images should be your first order of priority. If you still have family members around, show them the images and have them identify who is in the photos and when they might have been taken or at what specific event. You can write lightly in pencil on the back of the original but be careful about putting too much pressure on the pencil as it will cause the front of the paper to crease. NEVER use ballpoint or marker on the back of an original photo. It may bleed through the front, or worse, stick to another photo that is put behind it. I’ve seen some awful messes made by people who thought they were doing well to identify the image. If you don’t want to write on the image, then start a spread sheet and number the image, again lightly with pencil, and then put all the information on the spreadsheet.

After you’ve sorted these, you may want to consider some photo restoration of some of the better shots. Other family members may want a copy and a print that has faded, gone through color changes, has rips or other damage, can easily be restored to better-than-original condition and printed on beautiful paper. This will produce something you will be proud to gift other family members.

There are some experts out there that can restore the original photo, but our recommendation, and practice at Legacy Multimedia, is to create a digital copy, do the photo restoration on the copy, print the new photo and then recommend that you store the original in some type of archival sleeve or envelope. It’s always important to keep the originals of all your media.

These days, with all the amazing software options, you will be pleasantly surprised at how successful and affordable photo restoration can be.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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Posted in Photo Restoration, Photos & Snapshots

Our Culture of Drive

Posted on June 27th, 2013

Do you drive?

There’s an old joke:
A Texan is talking with an Israeli and comparing the size of Texas to the size of Israel. He says, “when I get in my car, I can drive for hours and not get to the end of my ranch.” The Israeli says, “I had a car like that once too.”

Most of the people I know drive and take their driving for granted. Unless you live in a packed urban area where the cost of keeping a car outweighs the access it will provide, most people have a car, or two, or sometimes three. I think my friend Margie is the only person I know that doesn’t drive. New condos and apartments that are being built in my neighborhood have huge parking structures because nobody will rent unless two spaces come with each apartment. Our culture is fixated on driving. Having a driver’s license is a sign of growing up and a symbol of independence.

My father has been driving since he was 15. At 84, we recently made the decision for him to stop driving. It was a difficult decision and took a long time to reach. His reflexes were not as quick and frankly, it wasn’t that we didn’t trust him, we didn’t trust other younger drivers. The possibility that he and my mom might be seriously hurt while out on a joyride in Los Angeles, a city already known for overcrowded traffic, was a scary proposition. While he understands it intellectually, driving occurs as like ‘phantom limb’ syndrome. He keeps thinking he can just jump in the car to pick something up, until he remembers there’s no car.

One of my recent clients was still driving at the age of 98. In a section of her video, we filmed her driving in her car and telling us how much she enjoyed being in her car. She drove a cherry red newer model cadillac and being in the car with her behind the wheel was a real adventure. Unfortunately she too has stopped driving now after some medical concerns limited her mobility.

My friends and I called my first car the “Flintstone mobile” because there was a huge hole in the floorboard and you could see the road go by underneath you. I loved that car and was sorry to see it go. I can only imagine what that might be like, to have to give up something that we hold as an inalienable right in our culture. Something that most of us could do, and some of us unfortunately do, in our sleep.

What does driving symbolize to you? Have you thought about what your life would be like if you couldn’t drive, or drive as much as you currently do? I’d love to know some of your memories.

Stefani Twyford is a personal historian sharing life stories, connecting generations and preserving legacies. To learn more, visit her web site, find her on Twitter as @stefanitwyford, visit the Legacy Multimedia Facebook Fan Page, or send her an e-mail.

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Posted in Family Memories, Preserving Memories