The Story Of Black And White Photographs III

The story of black and white photographs III

The longing to freeze simple, everyday moments in time,
tell stories through photographs, and make them last forever.

After World War II, my grandfather got a job in the textile industry. He was responsible for finding new markets and closing deals all around post-war Europe. He must have been good at it because one day he and my grandma were summoned to the embassy where grandpa was offered an opportunity to become an industrial attaché.

"It all sounds good," said grandma. "But where is it?"

The officer looked at her and replied with a smile: "We have a new position in Zimbabwe."

Grandma looked at her in horror and said: "No way! That's too far! Mike, we're leaving." She literally grabbed grandpa by the sleeve and dragged him out of the office.

The officer ran after them and begged them to go come back. When they did, she said: "We also have a position in Switzerland. Would that be interesting for you?"

Of course, Switzerland was a different story. Untouched by war, thriving, elegant, beautiful, welcoming, safe. My grandparents packed two suitcases, got on a plane for the first time in their life, and headed for Bern.

They stayed for five years, and life was good. Grandma got a job at the embassy as an interpreter. They had a beautiful apartment on the riverside. And most importantly, they got a car and started to travel. All around Switzerland, across France and Italy. And that's when grandpa bought his (and now my) beloved Contax D.

They patiently learned to make photographs and together they filled many thick albums with small black-and-white photographs that documented their travels and their daily life. Mountains, lakes, cities, picnics, parties, dinners with friends. The birth of my mum and her first flight home when she was just a few weeks old, with the air hostess holding her in her arms.

Those breathtaking old photographs were my grandmother's most precious possession. When she was in her eighties and struggling with Alzheimer's, even on her worst days when she didn't recognize her own children, she remembered every tiny detail of her life in Switzerland. She would go through the photographs and tell stories with so much joy in her voice. The real life around her slowly faded but she continued to live in her happiest days.

I still have those albums, and the photographs they hold are much more than memories of a family that's no longer here. They are life itself. They eternalize moments of pure joy, connection and adventure. They radiate love, hope and the magic of being present, immersed in the spirit of the day. They feel like living things, reminding me of the precious gift called life. When I open one of the albums and slowly turn the pages, I feel immense gratitude for being right here, right now, and I give thanks for every breath I take, for the privilege of being able to touch the ground with my feet.

For a while, I'm that little girl sitting on grandma's lap, looking at the photographs in awe, listening to her stories, and feeling a deep longing inside my heart, that was meant to stay within me and grow stronger. The longing to freeze simple, everyday moments in time, tell stories through photographs, and make them last forever.