Fear Not

Fear NotWhat is it about photos? Why are they so hard to get rid of? The duplicates, the out-of-focus, the poorly composed? Why do I feel mildly anxious, regretful, ambivalent about every one I relegate to the wastebasket? All this photographic angst is wrestling mano a mano with my urge to be ruthless. With my need to thin the herd. With my need to purge the unnecessary and no longer needed in my filing cabinets. To come to terms pleasurably with the reality that my banner-making days are over.

I have to admit that my first round of ruthlessness was somewhat unsettling as I began to shred saved cutting patterns and the extraneous copies of fancy fonts from the early 90s. It didn’t take long to realize there were some things I wanted to save and somehow merge together to tell a creative story that stretched over nearly a quarter century from 1987 to 2011. There were images inspired by greeting cards, seen in catalogs, adapted from Catholic missals, and influenced by Scripture and other inspirational reading. There were fabric swatches taped to graph paper, notes of appreciation, commission contracts, and occasionally a writing piece that interpreted a banner’s inspiration and symbolism. And there were all those photos!

So last week I began The Book of Banners, what I thought would be a relatively short chronological history of a significant era of my creativity. Fat chance! Volume I covers only 1991 and 1992, with one exception – a lone banner made in 1987 for a long-forgotten church event. Volume II got as far as 1995. Fear not! I’ve really thrown away a lot of photos. Really. A lot!

But I’ve also taken the time to single out, crop, resize, or color correct those best photos from my portfolio on the computer. My visual files are becoming more cohesive and appealing. Each banner’s image is accompanied by information about when it was originally made, where it has resided, whose collection it belongs to now, and how many additional banners have been made from the same pattern, and who owns them. Out of curiosity I began a list of all the banners I’ve designed and made, including those which have been made for other churches. The list includes, so far, thirty-one original banners plus another twenty-one copies. I’m not even close to entering the twenty-first century. Still firmly entrenched in the mid-90s. Primarily because of all those photos. Fear not. Ruthlessness is a slow going process.

However, the best “fear not” is the gentle recovery of my “first love” of banner making; revisiting the inspirations and delights of an art form intimately intertwined with my devotional life, rereading the writing pieces and thank you notes, reviewing the initial sketches, touching the fabric samples, and, with ruthless contentment, pitching the so-so photos in the trash. There are even some sorrows embedded in this creative history, written between the lines, and mostly redeemed. I’ve learned a lot about fearing not from banner making. And from getting rid of photos!

If you were to thin out a significant era of your life, what would it be? What pieces of that life would you keep? What story could you tell with those remaining pieces? If you’ve taken photos of that part of your life, which would you keep? And which would you, with ruthless contentment, throw away?

Anxious to hear your comments since I need continued encouragement with my fearless throwing away. 

6 comments to Fear Not

  • Kierna

    Seriously mom, I am feeling the land line angst all over again when you talk about throwing away photos of your life (of any part)! I think I am going to need to set some rules for you and dad!:-)I am tapping like crazy right now. Love, your daughter <3

  • from time to time thin things out and usually live to regret some of it
    books in particular
    i have two homes and two hoards as a result
    find it so traumatising to lighten the load
    that have almost decided to indulge myself and let
    those who have to clean it all up after i die
    have a monstrous bonfire
    in the meantime i am having fun with my life
    and always have masses to choose from in my wardrobe
    and plenty of stuff to play with
    who could want more?

  • Maureen

    Although I didn’t think of it as angst, you are right to call it such. I too have been doing what I can to digitize what exists currently in large plastic bins or in old cd cases. So hard to discard!

  • Joyce

    Ah…the photos! I have that issue, too. I’m going to stitch some over journal pages so the whole becomes more than the sum of the parts..altered books…And art stuff: the Boys & Girls club is used to seeing me…Love to see in print your process, Lynne

  • Jan

    My “good” husband died 15 years ago this summer. I’ve now been with current man-in-my-life for three years, and feel it’s time to retire some of the reminders of my husband.

    I set up a memorial fund upon my husband’s death, which amassed a great sum of money very quickly (everyone who knew him loved him) and produced a recording of Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem”, recorded at Kennedy Center, and on which he had sung. It won Grammy in 2000 for best choral recording. I’ve kept shadow box of mementos from the Grammy awards ceremony on my wall in four different houses over the past 13 years. It now needs to find a less focal-point home.

    It doesn’t change his importance in my life, or my gratitude for our time together. But it recognizes that life moves on. Pictures of him and of us are all in one small storage box, as are a few other items of his. My notes taken during his oncologist visits and treatment at Walter Reed need to be given a respectful burial of some sort. Life is not static. Keeping reminders of him everywhere won’t bring him back.

    As were your banners for you, my care of him through that period (we had been married six months when he was diagnosed) was – for me – some of the best work of my life. I can feel those accomplishments in my heart at all times. I don’t need to keep things around that my kids will have to deal with when I’m gone.

    It’s interesting to read your daughter’s comments above. My sons wouldn’t have her same reaction!! I, too, will go through the family photos and set aside what I consider to be the best for “someday” for my sons. They don’t need six different shots of the same thing from the same perspective. I believe I am being thoughtful and considerate by doing this kind of culling.

    Good luck with the process!

  • Jonelle Stevens

    Oh, Lynne, I am so impressed with your ability to focus on the very long process of thinning out. You go girl!
    Please inspire me. I have 40 teaching boxes in the garage that I can’t seem to face. Regardless of what your daughter says at the moment she will thank you someday.

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