I’ve been meaning to scan some old photos and pictures for a long time, and today I finally did. This picture lives inside one of two autograph books which belonged to my maternal grandmother. I love these books because they’re full of hand-drawn pictures and poetry. Some of the poetry is the typical verse which would have been popular as choices for autographs, and other poetry has been written especially for my grandmother. My grandmother was German but born in Russia, and lived there until she and her family fled to Germany during WWII. And so the entries are in Russian, German or Ukrainian.
The pages of these books contain history – dates, names, warm wishes and sincere words from people who were once young and are now long gone – but they are precious to me also for their lost art of handiwork. There’s a thrill in being able to feel the paint on the page, to see the brushwork or ink, and think that somehow the traces of people long gone are kept alive within these pages.
Here’s a page from an illustrated poem written about a time when my grandmother’s father was separated from the family when he was working in Siberia. In this picture you can see my grandmother as a young girl, her mother holding her baby brother and her father rushing out to meet his family, happy to see them. And the whole story is written as poetry. How special is this!
Things have really changed since the times of these autograph books. Even the fact that I can scan, crop, save and upload these pictures demonstrates how technology has created possibilities. We may lament the fact that people don’t have the fine motor skills to draw as well as they used to, or the time or inclination to write poetry by hand, but we have different options for creativity. If students can’t draw, this doesn’t stop them from being able to create computer-generated art or animation. I love the fact that this generation is revisiting things from the past – art and music – and are remixing, reorganising, reinterpreting these in a new way.
Here’s a Second Life animation take on Yeats’ poem, The Stolen Child, by Lainy Voom. Andy Fisher found this for me; thanks!
The autograph book demonstrates a lovely collection of shared sentiments, but at the same time, this generation is collaborating in newly found ways to create.
4 thoughts on “The old and the new”
What a delightful post. The book with its beautiful artwork and narration is a wonder! I like how you drew a parallel of creative expression with modern technologies. I too had ancestors who lived in Russia during the time period and left for Canada in 1923 after their prosperous farms and livelihoods were taken away.
Isn’t that interesting, Paul. My father’s family were in the same position as yours. They initially lived in Iran (Persian then) and then moved to Australia. My mother’s father and his family fled to Germany after he was secretly told he would be shot for his anti-communist activities. There are many stories and details that I’ll never know now.