Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How my Grandfather Inspired Me to Save YOUR Photos, by Mandi Zucker

My grandfather was a photographer.  He never got paid for it, but he had a real talent.  He had lots of various jobs, from a tire salesman to construction work.  He was a pilot in WWII and took some amazing, historic, and horrifying photos in the war.

My grandparents have an interesting love story.  They married very young, as many people did at the time, had my mom and her brother, but eventually divorced after almost 20 years of marriage.  They both remarried but after a second divorce for my grandfather, and my grandmother's second husband's death, they found each other again.  As a child, I thought it was so cool that my grandma and grandpa were dating EACH OTHER!  They never remarried, but they lived together on weekends and my grandmother took care of him when he eventually got sick and passed away.

I guess my love of photography came from my Pop.  I never took many photos until I had children of my own, and although I'm not great, I can usually get the shot I want and am pretty good with the photo-editing tools on my computer.  I know I'm not a professional level photographer, but I started realizing the importance of taking photos and preserving them when my children were born about 11 years ago.

My grandfather died in 2004.  While helping my grandmother clean out his apartment, we came across boxes and boxes of old photos and memorabilia.  My grandparents' engagement photo and their engagement announcement from the newspaper, love letters, photographic testimonials of the horrific acts witnessed during the Holocaust, report cards, and more were just some of the "treasures" I found in closets and under his bed.

At the time, I wasn't ready to tackle this emotionally and physically exhausting project.  So, my grandmother took the shoeboxes and memories to her apartment, and I figured I would get them back when I was ready to work on them.

That never happened.  About a year later, I was ready.  So I went to my grandmother and asked for them back.  I told her I wanted her help to create a keepsake album so my children could learn about the grandfather they would never get to know.  She said, "I'm sorry.  I didn't know what to do with them, so I threw them away."

Gone.  Family treasures.  My grandfather's legacy.  Historical pictures and newspaper articles.  All gone.

I was devastated.  But at that moment, I swore I would never let that happen to my own children.  I know they are going to be very important people and go on to do amazing things.  I want their grandchildren to know about it.

So chronicle your pictures.  Scrapbook them.  Frame them.  Make a slideshow with narrative and subtitles to tell their story.  If you need help, there is a great nonprofit organization called StoryCorps that provides a list of questions that may be helpful when trying to think about documenting your story.  It doesn't matter how you do it, but don't let your family treasures be thrown away!

If you'd like to learn more about how you can preserve your most precious memories, APPO offers community talks on tips and techniques for organizing your photos.  On April 5th, we'll be in at the Bronxville, NY library doing our "Got Photos?  Get Organized!" presentation.  Click on the link to RSVP and join us!

Mandi Zucker is a Personal Photo Organizer and the owner of NY Photo Services.  She has been helping people with their photos for 7 years.  For more information, email her at or check out her website.  


  1. Mandi, thank you for sharing your story. It must have been heartbreaking to discover that those precious memories were gone. Your story will inspire the rest of us to document our history before its too late!!

  2. Hi Mandi. Congratulations about your job. You know how I admire what you're have been done about photos. I felt in love with my photography classes and day after day I read and learn more about it. I just read your story. I know that you have been doing the scrapbooks, saving the pictures of the boys etc., but I'm glad to hear where this is coming from. Also, the story about your grandparents is really cute. Hope you continuous that beautiful job.