Maybe my favorite image of my Mom was one I made on her last visit to my home in Arizona. She knew, and obliged in retelling, the stories of her past. I remember asking her about her high school years, because to me, in her photo, she looked so much more mature than high school. I had the idea to ask her to try and recreate the expression in that photo, which I merged in PhotoSHop:

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

Sometime later, it got me thinking of the Dear Photograph site (check it out), and that it was actually more interesting to have in the photo the tangible real original photo. I got the idea to do it in 2011 when my sisters and I had to clean Mom;s house out, and I ended up getting photos of my sisters holding their own photos:

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

My older sister Judy, holds her high school portrait. The expression is there, contemplative and looking into the future, then with her long hair, but still with her tanned skin.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

My younger sister Harriet (older than me, ha ha), again not too much trouble to connect the expressions, she more of a trickster, always finding a way to beat her kid brother in some game.

I am sure this is not an original idea, but seemed worthy of making a ds106 Visual assignment (which the Headless folks get next week, stay focused on this week’s audio assignments!), Redoing the Past Post:

So we cannot go back in time…. but can you recreate a pose of someone’s old photograph with them doing the same pose in the present? Make a photograph of someone holding their own old photo, with them trying to replicate the expression.

Try to recapture the then and now story of that moment in time.

It is similar to, but slightly different from the Then Now Together assignment.

I do not know what it is, but it seems kind of magical to see if you can get a person to try on that same pose/expression. You might have to coach them, or advise them “tile your head” “more smile” since they cannot see the photo directly.

I also had done this with my Mom’s sisters:

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

Aunt Ruth is mom’s older sister, now 93, but still easy to laugh. I tried to get her to tell some stories of the time on her photo, when she was a nurse in World War II. It was a big deal, I recall, since Ruth was the only one of the siblings to get a post high school education. I believe she served her time at a base in Florida. That’s mostly just a fragment of s story.

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by Alan Levine

My Mom’s younger sister Dorothy is trying to emulate the same laugh of a photo of her on a bicycle with my Mom in the alley behind their ?? Garrison Avenue home in Baltimore, probably 70 some years ago. Aunt Dorothy has an infectious laugh, and in many ways reminds me so much of my Mom with similar mannerisms.

Anyhow, this seems like a nifty assignment, and maybe one way would be to redo a photo of myself… but I like the idea of holding the real photo in your hands.

To be continued…

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Very beautiful, humanistic idea, both simple and elequent. I am surpised but also grateful that you didn’t try to make animated gifs out of them with faces jumping from past to future in some grotesque parody of time passing (LOL!).

    I’m glad for the heads up for this idea as a Daily Create, so I can find a picture. My dad was a 1950s-70s slide photographer, very good but the majority of my historical stash is in old KIIs.

    I love the way you put your photos in a narrative context–that’s the simplest evocation of digital storytelling. You have given me warm flavors of a humorous, tightly knit family and shown me people I can love.

  2. Thanks Alan for the beautiful pictures and text! It reminded me that I need to get a copy of the one of mom! It is nice to look at those old photos and capture the feelings again. Lots of love from your “older” sister!!

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