Misty Water Colored Walls

In an attempt to continue the Spring Purge I have embarked on this year, I came to the portion of the program where I was confronted with The Tubs.  The two gigantic Rubbermaid plastic tubs that I have thrown every photograph ever taken of me, by me, for me, my kids, my family into.  At least they were contained, I figured.  And after three hours of my family and I lovingly going through each photograph — “Mommy, was this what the 80’s looked like?”  “Daddy looks funny.”  “I was a cute baby!” My kids had plenty to say about their trip through our past, but in the end, piles everywhere, my son off Googling the 1912 photographs of soldiers or a ship or some such from my Grandfather, my husband long gone from the project, my daughter and I looked at each other, shrugged, and gently, humbly– beaten down really, began putting the photographs back into their appointed bins.

The Tubs.

The Tubs.

Throwing away a photograph may be one of the most challenging tasks any human with a heart could attempt.  I mean, sure, it’s of the back of my sister’s head, but it’s my sister,  In 1981.  In the house we grew up in.  Taken by my father, as was is way, while nothing in particular was happening.  It’s a treasure, I say!  But what struck me most about the exercise, and one of the reasons I tackled the Tubs in the first place was, the last photograph I hung on my walls was at least 3 years old.

Digital photography and smartphones have made Photographers of us all.  With EVERY moment captured, and very few of them printed, kept, seen.  Social Media posts may garner likes from far and wide, but once the next meme comes swinging through town, poof.  Gone.  Into the ether, our memories go. I have heard bloggers and friends alike with methods to the madness — every year one friend gathers her digital pics from a shared family album on her computer and prints a photo book of their family’s year.  Lovely.  One friend uses Holiday Card time to pick her top pics to cut, print, and stow in a Tub.  Others are sure to back their digital memories up, disorganized as they may be, in a virtual Tub.  I’ve written here about two fabulous services, both ways of easily, and at the click of a button, either expand your memories into framed art (Framebridge) or minimize their assault on your storage space by digitizing what dares to linger on film (Legacy Box).

As an Interior Decorator, I find clients equally stymied when it comes to filling their wall space as they are with what on earth to do with their Tubs, USB drives, Files, Picasa folders, and whatnot.  The obvious solution is to marry the two and get the pictures hung.  But where to begin? I’m not one to spend the day going through your Tubs with you, but I have moved Memory Walls along for many a client, my own family included.  Here are my tips for creating a fabulous Family Photo Gallery.

  • People assume they need to start with the photo selection, but I recommend the opposite.  Start by determining WHERE you want your gallery, then gather your FRAMES.
  • When buying frames choose at least ONE unifying element with them OR with the pictures.  For example, all black gallery frames, with a mixture of BW/Color photography, or try mixing frame styles, and ensuring all the imagery are Black and White/Sepia.  This, like any other Design Rule, is meant to be broken and played with a bit, but it’s a great guideline to get you started
  • Once you have your frame collection, start hanging.  Pic an overall shape for your arrangement (east-west, square, eclectic, straight row, radial, etc.) There are tons of pre-planned templates online, but you can use the ideas below to implement whatever design you choose.
  • Rather than cutting craft paper the size of each frame, in most cases you can take the “fake” photo that comes with the frame out and hang it on the wall with blue painters tape to get a rough idea of how the arrangement will look.  This won’t work of course if the frame you choose is MUCH larger than the image it holds, but the point isn’t precise perfection, it’s to get the ball rolling and give you a good idea how it will fit on the wall.
  • Shoot for roughly the same distance between each frame, no matter what arrangement you choose.
  • Once the frames are hung, THEN choose the photos for each.  Often (and in some of the pictures here) I will come hang frames for a client leaving them to decide if Aunt Edna makes the cut.
  • Be careful about doing small images over a sofa, where the viewer would have to turn around and crawl onto the couch to see the pictures.  Hallways and Stairways are a great choice for Galleries.
  • Formal for formal, casual for casual — the kids splashing at Disney World is better kept for a family room, and perhaps generations of Wedding Photos could grace a Dining or Living Room.  Save overly seasonal photos for albums.  The snowy picture will look odd in June.
  • If you use a professional framer, don’t let them choose the mat colors without knowing your paint color and fabrics in the room.  If all they have to work with is your picture, they will match the frame and mat to THAT, not to what’s happening in the room.

Whether you choose to tackle your photos monthly or once a year, it’s a great Spring project to get the family involved in.  You can see these and more tips here.  Happy Hanging!

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