Photographs and Memories

I just read a wonderful comment from Linda on the For Perfectionists Only…Not post. In the post I mention William Stafford, and Linda, who was a student of his at Lewis and Clark college, shares a lovely personal story about him and his down-to-earth humility and kindness. She also shared this interesting fact about Stafford:

Something else I haven’t seen written about him: he was also a photographer. He brought a camera to class and took photos of his students’ faces, which he had printed and posted all over the walls of his campus office. It was those photos, he said, that helped him to remember his students’ names and faces years later, as he did mine when I heard one of his last readings in 1992.

This comment brought back a memory of my grandfather’s medical office. We were there to pack up his things after he passed away. He had been a general practitioner for thirty years or more, in a low-income section of Boston.

He had a camera – I forget the make – that used 35mm film but took half-frame shots. He took photographs of all his patients, had contact prints made from the film and taped the images to his office walls.

There were hundreds of these tiny images on the walls. He organized them by family. It was amazing to look at the images and see all the families he was treating. There were loads of three generation families, and I’m pretty sure there was at least one family that he treated four generations.

I wonder if, like William Stafford, this was how he remembered his patients’ names and faces. Or could it be that he was offering his patients a moment or two of “fame” when they got their picture on his wall.?

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