Leaving Your Legacy with Family Portraits

old black and white family portrait

September 26, 2018

Do you ever think about what your legacy will be?

According to Dictionary.com a legacy is: 1) a gift of property, especially personal property, as money, by will; a bequest; 2) anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.


That is pretty broad and all-inclusive.  And it really makes me think.  What am I going to leave behind for my son – and his children?  And their children?  And so on.

I do hope it is much more than “personal property.”

I think most of us feel that way.  We want to leave a part of ourselves behind.  We want to pass on our beliefs, our faith, our ethics – those intangibles that will keep our family going in a positive direction and help them live fulfilled lives.  We want to be remembered, but not just for the sake of our memory living on.  We want memories of our lives and who we were to inspire our children and future generations.  At least, I know I desire that.  Can you relate?

You might be wondering why I am getting so philosophical on my first blog post.  Shouldn’t I be talking about photography?  Trust me, there’s a connection.

Before I can explain where I’m going with this, I have to take a step back and tell you a little about my family.  I am extremely blessed to be the child of parents who are still together after almost 53 years.  With no siblings, parents who are both only children, and no relatives living nearby, it was a quiet upbringing, to say the least.

I did see my grandparents periodically and got to see a handful of distant cousins and great aunts and uncles once in a great while.  However, most of the time it was just our little trio.  Thankfully though, my parents often shared stories about their families and had a decent amount of pictures to accompany them.

While the stories are invaluable, I have to say, I do wish they had even more pictures.  In addition, I wish more of the pictures we have were labeled, as many of the details about them have faded in their memories.  (This is why I think scrapbooking is such a valuable practice – but that is a topic for another day!)

Thankfully, as I grew up the camera was out often.  My dad was the family documenter and he made sure that every special – and often ordinary – event was captured.  I can remember many a time rolling my eyes while I waited for him to set the light meter and compose the perfect shot.  And while I may have gotten annoyed in the moment – and not always enjoyed the family slide shows with a million pictures – as an adult I am so grateful that my dad took the time and effort to document our lives.

family portrait of Robin Collette Photography photographer as a baby

Mom, Dad and baby me! Most people say I look just like my dad. Mom is always surprised when someone says I look like her. I can see it. Can you?


photographer from Robin Collette Photography as a toddler in the garden with her father

Dad and me in our garden.


1970s image of photographer as a child playing in a cabinet in her playroom

I loved to play in this cabinet in my playroom!


My mom has played her part in preserving memories for us as well.  When I turned 21 she gave me an album she put together containing pictures mainly of the two of us.  While I (shamefully) have not added more photos to the blank pages she included, I still cherish this album, yellowing pages and all.

family photo of mom holding baby - family portrait - gold river photographer

One of my favorite pictures of my mom and me. Isn’t she beautiful?


Mom carries on this tradition of memory preserving currently through a journal she has created for her one and only grandson (my seventeen-year-old).  Throughout each year of his life, she has written about events, special shared moments, funny interactions and any happenings that she finds significant.  Each year on his birthday, she gives him the journal (which is a large 3 ring binder) to read what she has added.


I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for the time my parents have taken over the years to document our life and preserve it in such a way that it can be enjoyed in the present and passed on to future members of our family.  This is just one small but significant way they are leaving their legacy.  Of course, there is much more to one’s legacy than can be passed on in photographs, but having those images can add so much.


Have you ever sat around with older family members, say your parents or grandparents and looked through family photos with them?  Reflecting back on the stories behind the images and almost reliving those moments together is priceless.  In those shared experiences of remembering we learn about what is important to our families, we see the love that existed and is carried on, we get to know each other in new ways.


As I looked through photos with my mom the other day to choose some for this blog post, I saw her eyes get misty when we came across images of her step-father.  I was reminded of how much she loved him, and he her.  After sharing stories about her father who died when she was only three years old we came across photos of the two of them she had forgotten about.  I could tell how moved she was while holding back tears she recalled the few early memories she has of him.  This reminded me of the difficulties she faced early in life and how they shaped her into the strong woman she is today.

old black and white portrait of father - grandfather of photographer for Robin Collette Photography

My mom’s favorite picture of her father


old sepia family portrait of child with mother and father - family portrait - greater sacramento

Mom with her mother and father. I love how he is holding her hand.


Would those memories be there without the photographs?  Probably.  At least for now.


But how much more meaningful the memories are – and how much more easily and likely they are to be recalled – when we can look back in time and see the moments as they really were.  Photographs spark the stories and come alongside them, allowing us to share our lives and our heritage with a richness and depth not possible any other way.


What will your legacy look like?  I encourage you to ponder that today.  And then pull our your camera!  Even the simplest, most ordinary moments can provide memories that will enrich the legacy you will one day leave behind.

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