Why You Should Preserve Your Family’s Story

I have fond memories of my grandmother telling stories as we lingered around the table long after the family meal had been consumed.  If she never had a story to tell, my mom would.  Maybe that’s why I became a storyteller, as a still photographer and as a filmmaker.

My mother died suddenly and unexpectedly. We had no warning and then one day she was gone from our lives forever.  I’d give anything to hear her voice again. Or hear her giggle.  Or listen to her tell a story that she had told a hundred times. But other than some scattered photos, Mooney Family, Chicago, ILrandom letters and a few mementos, all I have left are my memories of her. But sadly they have begun to fade.

I’m a commercial photographer and videographer and have shot on assignment for magazines, non-profits and corporations all over the world. I love what I do and the value it has for my clients and their products or message and God willing, I will do that till the day I die but I wanted do something more. I wanted to create personal films (videos) about and for families and preserve their legacy in a keepsake memoir. More importantly, I wanted to capture those family stories through the eyes and voices of a family’s loved ones, while they were still here to tell them and before the memories were gone.

After my mother died I did connect with members of the family to interview them. I must tell you that it was awkward at first but somehow I knew that it was important to do. Here is a short trailer about my mom’s story told through her siblings. Her brother had died before I had made this and a sister has died since but I feel very fortunate to have captured their stories when I had the chance.

I am working on a film now about the Pitney family. The Pitneys had inhabited a property in my town for 11 generations and their story is rich in history not only about their family history but also about our nation. Sadly, the Pitney homestead was destroyed by fire this past winter after over 300 years but the family lives on.   I’m so grateful that I was able to capture and preserve a part of their legacy. Please look at the trailer about the Pitney family and the fire and let me know your thoughts.

A film has the power to preserve family stories Nola Mooney, Garden, Michiganwith imagery, interviews, sound and music. Imagine capturing and preserving your family’s story through the power of cinema. Imagine
what a priceless gift that would be for future generations.

A laugh, a giggle, a blurred smile, a glance, a wink, a memory – a life’s story preserved.

 

Golden Days – a Life in Photography

I’ve been sifting through a lifetime of images over the last few weeks, in a myriad of formats – prints, transparencies and digital files. Gail Mooney - early 1980's - New York CityWhat started out as a simple quest: to find photos of my daughter Erin at various ages in her life, for a bridal shower “game”, quickly turned into a major,  yet wonderful distraction.  I was looking through the visual archive of my life – my husband/ partner’s life – Erin’s life and all the family and friends that made up a lifetime.

In the “old days” it was more of a working chore to take photos of casual gatherings.  You needed to bring a camera, a flash and  lenses with you (not to mention film), to be able to document various life events.  Now, with cameras with us at all times in our phones, we are able to capture and share the moments of our lives, easily and all the time.  Sometimes, it almost seems like we are more intent on capturing and sharing our “moments” than we are just living those moments.

I can tell you that experiencing something through the lens of my camera is a totally different experience than just “being in the moment” for me. There have been times when I’ve been intensely photographing something, when I didn’t really feel like I was experiencing “the moment”.  I was shooting “the moment” but I wasn’t part of it.

My camera(s) have been a major part of my life.  They have provided me access to my dreams and still do.  As I looked through the decades of images, it was like reading chapters in a book, each unique yet connected and integral to my life’s journey.

As I thought about my journey, I realized that if I had one big “take away” – my curiosity for life is what drove me. There was always something I wanted to try or do or learn about – and so, I did.  That usually put me in a position where I moved forward, rather than be left behind.  I was lucky because it was organic to my nature.  I was smart and maybe a little brave because I listened to myself.

My passion nowadays is to photograph and film others’ stories as my continued curiosity leads me to another chapter in my life.

Enjoy and savor every one of life’s moments – they go by in the blink of an eye.

“With my maps and my faith in the distance – Moving farther on”     Jackson Browne

A Time For Everything

Have you ever had days when you’ve had dozens of pressing items that need attention, yet somehow you just can’t seem to concentrate, no matter how hard you try?  Your mind just seems to drift.  Today is one of those days for me. My mind is scattered and my thoughts are thrown in a million different directions.  Is it a bad case of spring fever or is it the beginning of something less temporary?

Spring is upon us, along with that annual feeling of “new” and “fresh” that comes with it.  It’s a time of year when everything feels hopeful, especially after coming out of the dark days of winter.  This winter was harsh – not in terms of the weather but in what my spirit endured.  Things seem to come in cycles – the ups and downs of life – careers, finances, relationships – the wins – the losses.  All the stuff that goes into a life well lived.

Today my mind is drifting back to memories of those magical, lazy days that seem to be burned indelibly into memory – a rainy day conversation at a plantation in Mississippi, a long walk through Central Park with a friend on an unhurried autumn day, an afternoon on the beach, lingering long after the crowds had gone, to watch the last glint of light on the water – and so many other memories of life’s “quiet moments”.

These are the days that make up a life well lived.  It’s days like today, when I take time to remember that,  there is indeed a time for everything.  Maybe today is a day I just needed to enjoy the day itself , and welcome the spring – and the hope that comes with it.

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The Power of Nostalgia

I’m not one to “look back” much, but I watched a story today on the news magazine show Sunday Morning about nostalgia that got me thinking about the past. Apparently, according to the “experts” who were interviewed on the show, being nostalgic

Gang of friends. I'm on top step.

and looking back into our past isn’t such a bad thing for us to do.

But being nostalgic wasn’t always looked at as being “good” for us. In fact in the 17th and 18th centuries, nostalgia was considered a medical disease and as recent as the 20th century, it was classified as a psychiatric disorder.

Nowadays, many psychologists think it’s healthy for us to look back at our past and recognize that we have overcome hardships and setbacks in our lives and in doing so we gain the inner strength we need to move forward. With time comes perspective and with that comes a certain resolve.

Advertisers have capitalized on the power of nostalgia for years. They pitch and promote new products by connecting them to people’s fond memories of the past or how they perceive the past to have been. Pepperidge Farm commercials were intended to provoke memories of home baked goodies from our childhood and associate them with their products. Or as the fictional character Don Draper from Mad Men said when referring to the power of nostalgia “ It takes us to a place where we ache to go again – it’s delicate but profound”.

So as we close out another year and in fact the first decade of the new century, take a few moments to think about the past. I think most of us will realize that all the obstacles that seemed insurmountable at the time, ended up being necessary for all the other things to happen in our lives. Just like George Bailey in the film “It’s a Wonderful Life” found out when he had been given a glimpse into how things would have been different had he never been born – he really did have a wonderful life. He just needed to look back and take notice.

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