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Recreating Lost Photos, or, Feeling Better with Writing & Art

Recreating Lost Photos, or, Feeling Better with Writing & Art

Something really terrible has happened — don’t worry, no one died.  (That’s what I have to keep reminding myself to put things in perspective.)

To make a long story short, when my husband and I moved from Seattle to Minneapolis the summer of 2014, we had one of those u-pack cubes that got stored at a warehouse for a few days before it was delivered to us.  Somehow, at the warehouse, one of our boxes fell out of the cube and never got delivered.  It just so happens that the box contained ALL OF MY PHOTO ALBUMS.

A person at the storage facility found the box and tried to contact me through Facebook.  (Because that’s professional.)  I wasn’t friends with her, though, so the message went into my spam folder, which I don’t check regularly.  The people at the storage facility didn’t hear from me right away, so they THREW ALL OF MY PHOTO ALBUMS AWAY.

I found this out only recently, and when I did, the blood drained from my face, and white spots dotted my vision. I felt dizzy and sick to my stomach.

I still can’t understand how a person could throw away a box of treasured memories.  Those pictures were from middle school, high school, and college — before I had a digital camera. And they weren’t just loose photos in a box. They were carefully labeled in albums and scrapbooks – obviously something I had taken great care to make and preserve. I know it’s not the end of the world, but I’m pretty devastated. I’ll never be able to show my kids my prom pictures or the photos I took when I was nineteen and living in Los Angeles.

Those albums were from a very formative and important time in my life, and I almost feel like someone stole my past and threw it in the garbage.

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At least I have this one!  I took a picture of this picture (to post on this blog!) back when my photo albums were still safe and sound.  (I’m on the far left.)


Sometimes, when upsetting things happen, I think, “well, at least I can write about it.” But how, I wondered, could I take this heartbreak and turn it into something creative?

For lack of anything else, I started writing about all the photos I remembered — trying to describe them in the greatest detail possible so that the images would stay in my mind. As I described the pictures, I wrote about what was happening the day the picture was taken, and what my connections were to the other people in the photo.

Then I had an idea.

What if I gave these detailed descriptions to an artist — or many different artists — who could then draw/paint/create interpretations of the photos based on my descriptions.

We could make a book or collection of some kind with these “recreated” photos, paired with my stories and recollections. I know they wouldn’t look the same as the original photos, but maybe creating something new would be a way for me to feel better about the loss.

Already my artist brother and one of his friends have offered to do a few photos for me if I send them descriptions. I also created a project page on CollabFinder, and I hear there’s a reddit page I can check out. It feels good to be making something instead of moping.


Me and my brother, Deven.  Obviously, this picture was taken with a digital camera in 2006.  The pictures I lost were from 1992 – 2004.


Just yesterday, I looked inside my closet at my boxes of old diaries. These boxes made it safely from Seattle to Minneapolis and Minneapolis to Maryland (where I live now). These diaries are my other treasured possessions, of which there are no other copies.

I started writing seriously in a diary in middle school.  I wrote at least once a week (often more) and recorded all major events (and many minor ones as well). I made lists of my favorite bands and the boys I liked. I wrote down conversations I had and outfits I wore. I kept this up until I was thirty – when I started this blog.

Up until 1996, my diaries were handwritten. In high school, I typed them on a typewriter, and later a computer. Up until my mid-twenties, I printed out my diary entries and then deleted them off the computer. I guess I was afraid of someone finding them and reading my personal thoughts, but now I could kick myself for deleting them.  A dozen years worth of my diary entries are just one throwing-in-the-trash-incident away from being gone forever.

So I’ve decided to do something I’ve been thinking about doing for a long time but never had the gumption for until now: I’m going to start the long, slow process of typing up all of my old diary entires.

Yeah, yeah, I know that I could either a) scan them or b) hire someone to do this for me, but scanning will take nearly as long as typing, and I can’t afford to hire someone right now. Besides, I think it might be really interesting — it will force me to read every single page of my teenage thoughts and emotions.


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At least I have this one!  (Also used for this blog, which is why I took a picture of it.)  Here I am, circa 1999, with my friend Melissa and Roger from the band Less Than Jake.  


Losing my photos made me worried that I would lose my connection to my past and to the person I used to be. But rereading  my old diaries is going to be an intimate reconnection with my teenage self. I might be able to incorporate some of these entries into this creative art project I hope to make happen. Or, maybe reading my teenage thoughts will help me as I continue to write novels for young people. At the very least, making a digital copy, safe in the cloud, will protect me from another potential loss.

And I find that in the past few days, I haven’t been thinking as much about the photos I lost, but instead about everything I need to do and write and type, and about all the new things that can be created.

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If you would like to draw or paint one of my old photos, please contact me, or see my CollabFinder page here.  









About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

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