Over the years, I’ve discovered some fabulous online photo archives. Among my favorites are those that feature scanned images from the last four decades of the 20th Century. I especially love the ones filled with high-quality images of Gen-X.
Great pictures of Gen-Xers in childhood and youth can be pretty hard to come by. My own family’s snapshots were the products of cheap cameras. We rarely had money for film and if we did it stayed in the canisters for months — even years — until we had the money to get them developed. (This usually took place at a parking lot photo kiosk like Fotomat.) Most of our formal family pictures were taken by professional photographers working on church directories. I also remember having pictures taken in a mobile studio. A large truck pulled in front of our house in Hacienda Heights, California. We stepped inside the back and had our pictures taken against a bright blue curtain. I always wondered who was behind it. Perhaps the Wizard of Oz?
As I have expressed many times before, when I find terrific images of Gen-Xers in childhood and youth, I treasure them as if they belonged to me; as if they were me. I guess in a way they do, they are, because they document my life even if I am not in the pictures. I’m only on earth for a little while and all the people who arrived around the same time I did — we have a lot in common.
Barry Rich – Family Timeline Collection
The first photo archive I became enamored with featured the extraordinary work of Nick DeWolf. That archive is formal in its organization and presentation. Gratefully, DeWolf’s son-in-law has spent countless hours making it awesome.
Barry Rich’s archive is more 1999; more Internet-primitive in its presentation. Nevertheless, it’s just as captivating and beautiful as the DeWolf archive. By comparison, both men loved and photographed their wives a lot. As each progressed on the journey of life from young bride to old grandmother, the love of their husbands never waned. Through their respective lenses they documented the alterations that occur in all of us over time, and yet all that altered in them was heightened affection.
As Shakespeare wrote in his 116th Sonnet,
Let me not to the marriage of true mindsAdmit impediments. Love is not loveWhich alters when it alteration finds,Or bends with the remover to remove.O no! it is an ever-fixed markThat looks on tempests and is never shaken;It is the star to every wand’ring bark,Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeksWithin his bending sickle’s compass come;Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,But bears it out even to the edge of doom.If this be error and upon me prov’d,I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
Rich who was born in 1935 and died in 2014, started the online collection in the late 1990s, possibly as early as 1997. These were the last days before the world’s first photo-sharing sites. Dozens of Rich’s albums feature pictures of his sons, Stuart and Brian. In photo after photo we see the touchstones of Generation X as we were in the 1970s and 80s. Take this photo for example, which features tube socks, a tape recorder, cassette tape, Rubik’s Cube and the old lamp on a chain. Perhaps without his sons realizing it, Rich was capturing the trends of their generation.
Rich was a genius at taking pictures of nothing and everything at the same time. In 1984, he shot the above picture of his son simply sitting at a desk. Through the lens of time, however, it becomes something more, something different. It’s as if Rich saw everything he photographed even if it would take 30 years for everyone else to see what he recorded. For this is not just a young man sitting at a desk, but a Gen-Xer with one of the first-generation video consoles. I think it might be Pong! (Someone correct me if I’m wrong.) Also, note the dreaded continuous computer paper. There’s a box of those big floppy disks on the corner of the desk and a yellow and orange Dixie cup peeking out behind his arm. And how ’bout that computer cart? Ugh. They were such an ugly pain.
It’s as if Rich saw everything he photographed even if it would take 30 years for everyone else to see what he recorded.
Barry Rich posted his last albums just a few months before his death at age 79. According to WhoIs, the domain was renewed earlier this month and won’t expire until February 2018. I’m sure this special family will keep it going for future generations.
Before Duck-Lipped Selfies, Oversharing
Finally, Rich shot with 35 mm film in those glorious days before duck-lipped selfies and oversharing. His photos are the splendid history of not only his beloved sons, but their generation. They illuminate what the 110 snapshots and Polaroids rarely captured and struggled to preserve: the contrast, composition and color fidelity of Generation X. With his pictures, he preserved our depth of field.
They illuminate what the 110 snapshots and Polaroids rarely captured and struggled to preserve: the contrast, composition and color fidelity of Generation X. With his pictures, he preserved our depth of field.
Check out the extensive photography collection by Barry Rich, 1935-2014. Don’t miss the 1980s Bar Mitzvah photos of his sons. They’re wonderful and rare. See Stuart’s Bar Mitzvah and Brian’s Bar Mitzvah. Throughout the collection you’ll see many pictures of trips the family took, Boy Scout adventures and much more.
Many thanks to the Rich Family for allowing public access to their precious family memories. Seeing everyone age in pictures reminds us of how short this life is and how important it is to be happy. How important it is to not let things get you down when there are precious people right in front of you who need you. There is no need to engage in the struggle anymore. For this is not God’s plan for you. His plan is to make you whole — to bring you into celebration — to bring you into Jubilee.
There are places I’ll remember all my life,
though some have changed;
some forever (not for better),
some are gone, and some remain.
All these places have their moments
with lovers and friends I still can recall.
Some are dead and some are living,
in my life I’ve loved them all…
The Beatles, 1965