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YOUR STORY STARTED BEFORE YOU

By Rachel LaCour-Niesen, Founder of Save Family Photos

“All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget.” – John Berger

These words mean more to me on this particular Mother's Day than ever before. This year I will become a mother. I will celebrate a world of firsts – first glimpse of my child, first giggles, first cries, first time tangling blissfully in a sea of baby blankets, first time saying “I love you, kiddo.”

But I will also honor the bittersweet reality that this Mother’s Day may be my last with two matriarchs whose hands held mine as a child, who walked me through so many of my own “firsts” as a curious (ok, ok, precocious) little girl with a toy camera in her hands.

You see, I'm lucky enough to have two strong, spunky grandmothers in my life. At 91-­years-­young, these women have both breathed life into my story. They were among my first phone calls when I found out I was pregnant and my child will be born into that same life. I am at the beginning of the beautiful arc that is the story of motherhood. My grandmothers – my matriarchs – are at the end of that arc.

So I keep asking myself this question: what will I have left of these remarkable women when they are gone?

Of course, I will have my memories of them. Those are stored safely in my heart, tucked away until the day I can tell my own child stories about their great ­grandmothers. Yet I have something else, something tangible to share.

I have photos.

And these images, faded and tattered with tales of time, help me remember to remember. They trigger stories that I feared I would forget – stories about how my grandparents fell in love as youngsters on a train ride across Mississippi, stories about how my grandfather won my grandmother’s heart with chivalry and love notes, stories about how my grandmother always called sweet tea “the table wine of the south.” I have boxes and boxes of intimate, imperfect images that are perfectly paired with stories. All of them bear the marks of age, just like my matriarchs. But that’s what makes them so exquisite – they’re tangible. I can hold them in my hands just like I held my grandmothers’ hands, just like I will soon hold my own child’s hands.

Perhaps that's why photographs are such treasures? They are a living, breathing archive. They illustrate our stories and help us remember to remember. Long after I’m gone, and my child becomes the steward of our family stories, these photos will remain. They will live on. They will speak across generations, saying, “I was here. I mattered to someone. I left a legacy of love. I helped start your story.”


ABOUT RACHEL LACOUR NIESEN


Rachel LaCour Niesen, Steward of Stories & Founder of Save Family Photos, is a Yankee by birth but a Southern storyteller at heart. When a much-loved uncle gifted her with her first SLR camera, Rachel found her calling in photography. In pursuit of her passion, she headed to the University of Missouri, where she studied Photojournalism and Art History. When she's not curating vintage family photos, she enjoys adventures with her husband and partner in entrepreneurship, Andrew Niesen.

Save Family Photos is on a mission to save family stories, one photo at a time. Follow along via Instagram.

 

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