Not Even Past aims to make History more accessible. That usually entails thinking carefully about the way we write about the past. Since our inception in 2010, we’ve published more than 1.5 million words – all written, we hope, with a clarity that helps us speak to a broad audience.
But History doesn’t reach us solely through words. It lives on in images, too. A good photograph transmits as much information as a line of text, and it does so in an extraordinarily evocative way. Dispensing with description, photography brings us face to face with the past. Visual cues can stimulate our sensory imagination and present us with surprising new details, encouraging us to ask questions, to dig deeper, and to think like historians.
Engaging with historical photographs models the way scholars engage with archives. At Not Even Past, our written content frequently explores archives and their collections, whether across the UT campus and across the world. But nearly all of us have access to our own visual archives in the form of treasured family photographs, primary source documents that reveal intimate family history and suggest intersections with broader historical themes. In order to tap into these ubiquitous but oft-overlooked resources, we’re launching “Picturing My Family,” a new visually-oriented public history project.
Our concept is simple. We invite Not Even Past readers to do the following:
• Send us a photograph of a family member or ancestor. The photograph doesn’t have to be old; it could be from any period. The subject can be one of your grandparents, a cousin, a distant relative – anyone whom you count as part of your family.
• Tell us in less than 250 words what the image shows and why it’s meaningful for you and your family. If you wish, you can set the photo in historical context, too. But that isn’t necessary.
We’re keeping text to a minimum for a reason. Our aim is to use “Picturing My Family” to build our own visual public history archive anchored by a gallery of family photos. We’d love your help in accomplishing that goal, and if you’re interested, we’d be thrilled to give you space to tell your family’s story.
If you are interested in submitting something for this series, please click here.
Fathers and Sons — by Joan Neuberger
Joan Neuberger, the Founding Editor of Not Even Past, presents a photograph of her father, a veteran of World War II, and reflects on its profoundly personal significance.
Wartime Weddings and a People’s War — by David Crew
Historian David Crew shares two photographs that highlight different aspects of life on the home front during World War II. Crew’s contributions remind us that the impacts of war reverberate far from the front lines, creating profound disturbances and opening new opportunities for civilians as well as soldiers.
A World War II Odyssey — by John Gleb
Current Not Even Past Associate Editor John Gleb presents a photograph of his paternal grandfather. The photograph helps illuminate the sweeping global context of World War II; the accompanying texts tells a moving family story.
Keep an eye out for the next instalment of Picturing My Family!
The views and opinions expressed in this article or video are those of the individual author(s) or presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect the policy or views of the editors at Not Even Past, the UT Department of History, the University of Texas at Austin, or the UT System Board of Regents. Not Even Past is an online public history magazine rather than a peer-reviewed academic journal. While we make efforts to ensure that factual information in articles was obtained from reliable sources, Not Even Past is not responsible for any errors or omissions.
This article’s banner image incorporates a photograph by Suzy Hazelwood.