Photos illustrate our own personal mythology. We may not readily think of the term mythology as relating to our personal or family stories. More likely, you think of the capital-m Myths, like the Greek Pantheon, or other historical stories that have informed the beliefs and rituals of entire cultures. Or maybe you think of a myth as a fairy- or tall-tale. Myth can also mean a story about our traditions or ancestral origins, which though possibly far removed from our experience, are not at all false. 

We all have our own personal myths and family-specific stories too that inform our connection to our relatives and to our sense of place within our families. 

 

I’ll tell you one of my family myths. 

 

I’d asked my maternal grandmother Emily several times about her side of the family emigrating from France to New Orleans in the 19th century. Every time she told the story, she said they “stopped over” in Martinique. That stop in Martinique is well-known as part of our family ancestral story. Now, though, I wish I could ask her more questions about it like, how long was the “stop”? Was it a few months, a few years, or a generation? 

 

Photos can be literal illustrations of these family mythologies (for instance, my question could possibly be answered if we had pictures from my family during this time), or they can reference family mythologies in other subtler ways.