Declarations: The Hidden Stories of Printed Photos (Ms. Gay)

I never ceases to amaze me how often we can casually be around someone for a good amount of time and never really know what amazing things they’ve accomplished in life.

Gay and I attend the same church in Annapolis and we see each other fairly often. Our conversations have never been lengthy, just your typical pleasantries exchanged; though with her ability to light up any room with her warm smile, I’ve always appreciated when she was near.

While I certainly assume everyone has stories to share, I realize I am not asking nearly enough for them to be shared. I don’t know what I expected to hear when I asked if Gay worked outside of the home when her children were young but I can assure you it wasn’t the answer I received.

“I worked for NASA for 30 years; I was there for the first flight. We [women] all started out in a clerical position when we first went in. As people retired and aged out, they didn’t replace them because by that time the government had turned so much of the work over to contractors, so I ended up being in charge of the whole section. I was in charge of all of the documentation for the flights.”

Gay was one of the first people I asked to interview and my first appointed for this passion project. She set the bar pretty high; not only did we meet outside of her home, she brought stacks and stacks of photo albums with her.

Annapolis, Maryland resident Ms. Gay with one of her custom family albums. 

Annapolis, Maryland resident Ms. Gay with one of her custom family albums. 

Not just any kind of photo albums – custom, thoughtfully arranged photo albums that she goes through and curates individually for her children and grandchildren. For now she holds on to them so that she can reminisce on her own but these are ultimately created to be passed on when the time is appropriate.

“Through the years, we all had picture albums. I’m 82, so those generations we had picture albums because we didn’t have the phones to take a picture. If somebody took a picture, you passed it around the family so that everyone had a picture. I thought about the fact that everybody now in the family around my granddaughter’s age, all of their pictures are in their phone or the pictures are on a CD that the Photographer gave them. I don’t like it because most of the time I don’t get copies of the CD’s and I don’t have an iPhone. They’ll say, ‘Look at the pictures I took!’ and they’ll show me on their iPhone, then their phone goes away...and I don’t have it for reminiscing.

“I want my family to remember things. When your children get older and they start talking about their past – half of it’s wrong [laughs]. And I will tell you, even if it sounds like a funny story, I don’t want only the bad times remembered. I want to make sure they talk about the good times and the memories like these [points to albums]; every birthday, every holiday, every Easter with their little shoes, and their little gloves, and their little hat…they’re all in there. I want to make sure my grandchildren know about the good times.

I think it will help the memories be perpetuated through the years. We get very sentimental as we get older through the years.”

Ms. Gay shows off just a few of the photos that celebrate special times in her family. 

Ms. Gay shows off just a few of the photos that celebrate special times in her family. 

On one hand, piecing these albums together is clearly a lot of work. On the other, the value these albums will bring through the years and generations to come far exceeds the time they took to create.