WE PHOTOGRAPH TO REMEMBER

familyrootsungeheuer

familyrootsungeheuer2  I recently visited the Kansas farm where my mother grew up and where my grandmother still lives in a little stone house. She raised her four children in that house and helped to raise more than a dozen grandchildren. Upon my visit, my grandmother suggested that I look in the north room. There was something there, she said. My mother had spent a lot of time looking through some boxes before she passed away in 2009. What I found was an incredible box of black white photographs. Some of them were over 100-years-old, carefully notated by my Great Grandmother Georgia before she passed away in 1978. It was like Georgia knew that the generations afterwards would need to know who these people in the family picture were. What a prize find this is! Georgia’s notes reveal that this is my Great, Great Grandfather Jacob Ungeheuer, his wife Sarah and eight of their nine children… all staring looking out at me. I’ve often wondered about him, Jacob, my son’s namesake. He was a 16-year-old German immigrant, didn’t speak a word of English and after arriving in America fought in the Civil War and homesteaded a successful farm in Kansas… Seeing this picture gave me chills. But there were more pictures, and another rich story behind them too. Here’s my Grandmother Hilma, left, posing gracefully with a wedding

familyrootsungeheuer8  dreww pass down from generation-to-generation (wedding dresses were traditionally black). Below that is a picture of her handsome husband Donald, my Grandfather. See these two young people with vim and vigor standing proudly in front of the stone house where they created their own history together… And then there’s Donald on the front porch holding his newborn daughter (my mother)… I understand better now, why I became a photographer. Viewing these pictures, I also feel the passage of time and I realize how little of it I really have. A couple recently interviewed me and they wondered aloud why they needed to have a wedding album. I showed them these photographs… To be remembered is one of the great ambitions of human history and remembering to photograph is truly a wish fulfilled to the generations that come after you. — Sean

 

 

 

familyrootsungeheuer3

 

familyrootsungeheuer7

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *