In our digital world, it’s wonderfully cathartic to go back to basics and create with our hands. To celebrate the launch of our handmade small and large photo albums, photographer (and friend of The White Company) Kristin Perers guides us through filling them with treasured memories to help us reconnect with the joy in creating, reflecting and – above all – crafting our own unique story.
“Nowadays, we park all our photographs in the virtual world – online, in the cloud, on our phone. If they’re lucky they make it to an external hard drive, but there is nothing like actually holding a photograph in your hand. Laid out together, in an album, they become a story that connects us so much more directly to the events and to one another than a flashing screen. While time marches on, looking through photos of the past takes us back but, more than anything, it reminds us: the moment is now. Catch it if you can. I approach my albums lightly and in stages. I try not to make it too much of an art project – otherwise I know it’ll never get done. Here are a few tips to help you through the process.”
1. Get organised
There is a French culinary term, mise en place, meaning ‘everything in its place’. In other words: get your kit together. Gather your materials and, as with cooking, all your ingredients should be pleasing and of good quality. If you have pictures stuffed in old torn boxes, now is the time to get some decorative storage files that you’re happy to leave out. If your project is something you have to keep putting away you’re less likely to want to sit down and complete the album. Then begin to sort the photos, either with envelopes or dividers. Glassine envelopes allow a glimpse inside and labels can help to quickly place things into chronological order. Make your project desk a place you want to spend time at.
2. Try themed albums
Smaller themed albums can make special personal gifts and help break down the overwhelming task of sorting years of memories and piles of photos.
You can segment your themes however you like – the progress of a lovingly restored house, a garden over many seasons, visits back to the family homestead every year. In fact, the photo album I started keeping when my husband and I were renovating our first house became the basis of my book, The Seasonal Home.
3. Plan, loosely
Once you have your theme and your photos gathered, start by working your way through and paginate them in a loose order. Go page by page, but don’t pin anything down yet. Fill the entire book, then start at the front again and flick through. How’s the pace? How does the story run? Be brave with compositions: juxtapose small against large; give some pictures space and allow other pages to be an intriguing clutter to draw attention in. You want to keep it flowing and surprising. Like songs, pictures can take us immediately back to a moment. The flicker of light on a skirt, a shy smile or geraniums at the doorway conjure up a childhood Summer for me. In an album, we can return to pictures, which will in turn become touchstones to tell our story.
4. Fix, again, loosely!
When you’re happy you can start to fix but the key is to keep it loose. I think even formal photo albums look nice with a personal handcrafted touch. There is a fantastic new tape available now specifically for paper that allows sticking and re-sticking, without leaving a mark.
My mother was a great one for making photo albums and, as we became adults, she gave each one of her children two albums: one of our childhood years and another of our collected family history. I remember my grandfather saying, “Label those pictures because you will forget!” and now I realise how right he was. Luckily, my mother took his advice and, as her memory fades, we have her handwriting connecting the pictures to the names and the stories.
It is now possible to write on professionally printed photos with ink or pencil. If you print your own photos, leave a space at the lower edge to write any details you want, such as a place, name, date or meaningful references.