Family Album 2013

Family Album 2013: Incorporating a Child's Art and Schoolwork

This post is part of a series where I explain in detail how I approached and built my 2013 family album that was printed  by Blurb. In a hurry? View the completed photobook, now.

So, confession time:

I have only made one photobook dedicated to telling my daughter's story, and it only covers the first few months of her life. It was one of the first photobooks I ever made and I did it using a simple drag-and-drop template through iPhoto.

While I have had Create a Baby Book for Lyra on my to do list for 7 years, I have yet to get around to it (It has moved up in priority, though, and I hope to share that process here as I walk through it). And, though I have saved and scanned a good chunk of her art and schoolwork from her first two years of school, I just isn’t sure how to approach building a photo book for her that I wasn’t planning to publish for more than a decade.

Of course, the typical solution would be to make a traditional school album or even one based on pocket pages. But, doing that would mean getting “stuff”. and storing it. And cutting. And…ambivalence. The decision-making that has to go into creating traditional, paper-based layouts just paralyzes me. I have to be true to who I am and that means making clean, neat, bound photobooks.

But, there will still the problem that creating a photobook to document Lyra’s school years could mean preserving a set of digital files for 12 years. It just didn’t seem practical. 12 years ago Photoshop was on version 8. They’re now on version 16.But they may as well be on version 2000 for all that PS CC 2014 can do vs PS 8. So, that option was really out.

Then it occurred to me: my child is an essential part of our family’s story.

The work she does in school, the growth she experiences intellectually and artistically as she grows physically are an essential part our lives. Our walls are often covered by current drawing obsession. Pulling schoolwork out of a stuffed backpack is an essential part of our story right now. There was simply no reason to document that part of the story separately. Because creating and learning is her job as a kid. Our family changes as she changes.

Gathering the stuff

I allow Lyra to self-select schoolwork that she wants to preserve. She has a drawer in her dresser dedicated to this purpose. And when it gets full, we go through and purge. During that purge a lot of things that seemed important to her when she put it in the drawer, no longer are. We let go of those items. I keep things that speak to me. If she has made 50 puppy drawings, I keep 1 or 2. If she brought home an alphabet worksheet everyday for 6 months, I pick one that shows her squiggly handwriting and maybe another that shows her skill growth. Memorabilia from awards or special events are also saved.

Most of these items are simply stashed and then scanned or photograph some time over summer break, after the school year has ended. For me, the distance is important. It's really hard to know whether a worksheet or fish drawing is significant in the moment. Or whether it will still feel significant a year from now. But, months out it's just easier for me to tell what pieces are really part of the story and what pieces we can let go of.

Anything significant gets scanned. Some things get photographed. If I absolutely love it and can't bear to see it go, then I save it. But these are very few items.

Laying it out

I tend to create two different kinds of layouts with Lyra's work: grouped with a photograph that completes the story, or stripped-down as a single image on a page.

Blurb's 8x10 size makes it easy to keep  most objects "life-size." And I love visual impact of pages like the one below, where the artwork is allowed to be presented on its own. I find that adding a little bit higher contrast and sharpening to the scanned artwork helps the paper texture and crayon marks to come through in the finished page.

In this example, I have scanned in an award certificate along with the essay Lyra wrote that won the award. I explain the story behind this award on a previous intro page. If I hadn't, I would add captioning here to make sure I knew what I was looking at 10 years from now.

Organizing within the album

Within the album my approach is simple. I add school-related items with the season in which they occurred. I am loser with artwork. I add it wherever I feel a visual break is needed from the other content, unless it's something particularly seasonal (jack-o-lanterns, snowmen, etc.).

In terms of process, Much of the artwork and schoolwork were added to the album last. And, after the album was laid out in Lightroom I moved some pages around for visual harmony.

More inspiration

I've pinned a few different examples over the years of how other memory keepers have created projects incorporating their child's artwork. Links are below.

More About This Project

  • Want to know why I decided to make a 2013 family album? Check this out.
  • Would you like to know more about how I organized this project and the tools I used? See here.
  • Curious about the cool navigation technique I added to the fore edge of my book? Want to know what the heck a fore edge is? Read this.
  • Want an in-depth look at an entire season from my photobook? Stay tuned.