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Memory enhancement
Fresh ideas for those boxes of old photos

By MARY LOU SANTOVEC

 

Amy Miller and Kate Barrett showed their "wallpapering" technique with a series of Miller’s photos. The same technique can be used for family photos.


George Eastman’s invention of film in 1884 led to the development of the modern camera. But Eastman’s discovery also created a dilemma for future generations - what to do with all those family photos cluttering up attics, basements or hall closets. It’s the rare individual who doesn’t have boxes of candids, graduation portraits and historic family photos hidden away, sight unseen.

Sure, digital cameras and scanning programs have made storing photos a breeze, but it still doesn’t solve the conundrum of what to actually do with the images you’ve recorded. Thanks to the United States Postal Service you can always turn a beloved photo into a postage stamp and use it on special letters. A handful of old photos imported into PowerPoint and backed with an appropriate soundtrack can make for a one-of-a-kind birthday surprise.

Still, you don’t have to pull out all of the photos and frame them in one or two styles to get an artful display. Two local designers have come up with some clever ways of incorporating these memorable images into a home’s décor without using frames, matting and glass.

Create a Pattern

For Amy Miller, an up-and-coming photographer and employee of Milwaukee’s Home Market, finding a use for all of her disparate images was a challenge. For one thing, her "family" photos don’t actually include people. "I tend to take abstract things and more nature things," she says. "I like to shoot up close and distort the image."

So what do you do with a plethora of these kinds of photographs? Why, wallpaper with them, of course. Miller’s boss, Kate Barrett, the owner of Home Market, agreed to reserve a wall in the store for a temporary display. So Miller printed a series of 8x10s of her work and hung them in rows, leaving a quarter-inch of space between the images. In the center of the "big contact sheet" she placed a larger, 16x20-inch photograph. "Framing is expensive," says Miller explaining the genesis of her idea.

Another way to avoid framing large numbers of photos is to convert the images to black and white and run them as a border around the perimeter of a room like an old filmstrip or comic strip. "Making the photos black and white gives a dramatic presentation," says Barrett. For a particularly stunning image, take just a single photo and enlarge it to 30- x 40-inches. Then mount the image on a piece of foam core board to make it seem as if it’s floating on the wall.

Make a Quilt

When a customer of Judy Fleming’s walks in to Manhattan Textiles in Wauwatosa and asks her what she would recommend doing with a group of family photos, she has a ready answer. "I’d sell them about eight yards of a really cool solid-color fabric and send them to online sources to print photos on the fabric," she says. "You can make cool pillows or placemats with pictures on them."

And Fleming’s sister-in-law, Weslyn Fleming, has done just that. Weslyn’s grandson, Wes, asked his grandmother to make him a "cuddle" quilt just like she did for his sister. So Weslyn gathered up photos of the men in the family and scanned them into her computer. Using photo transfer paper that’s backed with fabric, she printed the photos from her printer. Arranging them in a patchwork pattern, she sewed the pieces of black and blue fleece together and quickly completed the project. Grandson Wes was thrilled with the result. For those without access to a printer, Kinkos or similar stores can scan and print the photos, as well as online sources.

Why photos of just the men? "Both of his grandfathers have businesses with big trucks and forklifts," she explains, just the thing to spark a 5-year-old boy’s imagination. "Grandma’s photo never made the quilt. I’m the grandma who shall remain faceless." Weslyn notes that a similar photo quilt would be a great going away to college gift for a graduating senior. m