More than a thousand words

Thoughts, reflections and learnings along the way.

Update 2: Bringing It All Back Home


Things have been slow and quiet around the archive lately. Some of you might be wondering what’s going on, how progress is coming, where does the project stand right now, etc. Well, I hope to answer as much of that as I can in this post. If you’re one of those people who are chomping at the bit for news and more photos, well take this update as sort of an apology for a lack of much of that lately, but just know that the wait will (hopefully) pay off.

So, what have I been doing?

In short, I’ve been getting my life back together.

See, after seven years of living in San Francisco my wife and I made the incredibly hard decision to leave, and on August 4th, 2016 we drove away from our life in the Bay Area and made the long journey to Nashville, my birthplace. In September we bought our first house together and that’s been our life for the past seven months or so.

It’s not easy starting over in a new city, especially one across the country. It was time, though, and it’s been great reconnecting with family, old friends, and this beautiful place I call home. Since being in Nashville we’ve been trying to normalize our lives (whatever that means these days), and the project has shifted into a different gear.

As you might imagine, doing this project a few thousand miles away from home in Tennessee has its upsides. The distance provides an emotional separation that is sometimes necessary, if not critical, for a project as emotionally charged as this one. I don’t think this project would’ve ever come about if I were living in Tennessee. However, to quote Wilco, “distance has no way of making love understandable”. Bringing the project (and myself) back home after all of these transformative years away has brought a new understanding and appreciation for all things home. And, in a lot of ways that’s what this project is about — home, the elusive home.

Being back here has many positives. For one, it is much easier to connect to folks important to the growth of this project — historians, friends, family, art gallery owners, journalists, and photographers—people that understand the potential for this project and can help push it along.

Another positive is that I’m now surrounded by lots of objects that were once my grandfather’s or my dad’s. For example, I now have the old Graflex cameras my granddad took all of these photos with, and his old leather camera bag still full of 4x5 film trays (some with film still in it!!). Or, like my grandparents’ old sofa that shows up in many of Joe’s photos from the 40s and 50s! These are objects that have been deemed worthy of holding on to by my family over the years, and I’m glad they did. It may sound strange, but these objects still hold an energy that’s connected to these people now passed, and I think they’ll be an important missing piece in this puzzle.

Some progress has been made on the archive, but not much. No new photo digitizing has been done for a little over a year now, and there’s still about 7,000 negatives left to digitize. That said, I’ve been going through all the digital files and organizing, tagging, and labeling, which is definitely not as fun as scanning, but is just as important. There’s still a lot more of that to go.

More excitingly, I’ve been using this “down” time to lay the groundwork for a book about the project. I know this sounds cryptic, but I won’t say much other than that. Expect more news about it in the next month or so.

So, that’s the state of things — moving, going through lots of old stuff I’ve inherited (for better or worse), connecting with people, and doing a bit of cataloging. I think things will be picking up pace real soon, so stick in there with me!

Talk to you soon,