Creating a Family Photo Wall: The Point of All That Clutter

The family photo wall at the lake is much more casual than the one at home. The one at home includes nails and picture frames and matting.

The family photo wall at the lake uses twine, thumbtacks to string the line across the windows,

and mini clothespins to hold the photos. Yet, the lines of photos takes you chronologically from our first days here, with our littlest one with chubby cheeks, and watching everyone grow. I’m behind 2.5 years in updating this one. I’ve been working most of the day on the photos to get them ready.

This clothes line snap shot tells a story. When I run out of window space, I’ll find a wall for the story to continue…

Part of the story these pictures tell is not only about the people, but how much we, and our neighbors have changed the landscape, and how much the trees have grown. This is why I rarely straighten these photos, or crop them to highlight a face, and get rid of all that unnecessary background stuff — we need that clutter. The clutter is essential in these photos!

But I do insist on two things: All photos must be converted to black and white — if they aren’t all the colors in the photos won’t match, and they will overwhelm the space. So, one monochromatic color scheme is what works.

Second, is the white border frame around each photo. Here’s how I do this:

Here’s the story I can tell by leaving the snapshots messy, and cluttered — no cropping.

The back field — the new owner no longer mows this, and now we have a beautiful prarie… but this was how it was before.

Lydia always says to include the houses in your lake shots — so you can see how the houses change over time. “Didn’t they used to have trees there?”, we’ll say ten years from now.

The Red Wagon my Dad gave me for my birthday, years ago, and that metal washtub, to hold pet turtles and frogs, are permanent fixtures in the sandy beach when we’re here. Someday, these things will be a thing of the past. But here’s a snapshot when they were as permanent as concrete.

The plastic bucket on the dock, another mainstay that the boys use to hold their “pets” found at the lake, and the numbers “1220” on our lift — we have no idea what that means, or who the numbers once belonged to.

A very, messy, cluttery photo indeed — but “look at how the kitchen used to be,” we’ll say. And those drawer pulls, remember those? “And that tiny little space by the stove, where people used to throw stuff down by the propane stove, and almost catching the whole cottage on fire?”

And, that fish in his hand will remind us of the time he saved one in the freezer.

We know it is after 6 p.m. That’s when the sun beams in that big window, just before sunset, and raises the entire cottage temperature by 20 degrees. We always get the fan out at this time of day to blow the hot air out. By the looks of the blanket, we also know the heat wave has passed, and that familiar “lake-night” chill has already settled over the cottage.

His cast.

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