Make a Photo Keepsake Booklet For Your Memoir Project

April 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Memoir Space

Memoir Space - Bo MackisonWe’ve done writing projects the first two months on the Memoir Space. Now is a good time to branch out and add a multimedia touch to our memoir. We’ll add an easy photography project.

No need to have an expensive camera or a camera that does all kinds of fancy things, unless that is the kind of equipment you love to use. A basic camera is great. Or a phone camera. Or a three dollar disposable camera from the corner store.

It is common to add data to photographs when we organize photographs. We take photos. We annotate them with date, place, names–all important to be sure. However in this project, not only are the photographs an integral part of the project, but the writing is key and will be expanded beyond the basic facts.

My photo booklet (seen in the photograph below) focused on an important person in my life. You may want to do a similar project or maybe you will want your book to feature your favorite books, art, foods. You could photograph little known details about the place you live, those details that make your house a home. You could do a photo shoot capturing your typical activities on a typical day. You are limited in subject matter only by your imagination!

Grandma's Book

Memoir Keepsake of Grandma Lillian

I chose to write about my Grandma Lillian, one of the most influential women in my life, who died a decade ago at the age of 91. While I have many fond memories of my grandmother with whom I lived until I left home to attend college, I wanted to write about her using a more concrete approach.

I chose objects and mementos she had given me, both as a child and as an adult, and photographed them for the booklet and as evocative prompts for writing. Here are the directions for making a booklet similar to mine. Adapt it as needed for your own project.

How-To Directions for Turning a Photo Booklet into a Memoir Keepsake:

1. I have only a few special objects from my grandmother. I went through my home collecting the few things she had given me. In ten minutes, I found several pieces of jewelry, a collectible miniature shoe, a lucky buckeye, and my most beloved treasure from her, a gravy bowl that my grandparents had received as a wedding gift.

2. I took snapshots of each object. Again, nothing fancy. Try to use natural lighting if possible–set the items up on a table near a window, or even outside, but don’t photograph in direct sunlight. A shaded area is fine. It is also better to avoid flash if you shoot indoors, but don’t get hung up on the photography. Just take the photos. Consider taking several photos of each item in case some of the photos are out of focus or not usable.

3. Make prints of the best photograph of each object.

4. Mount the photographs on a backing paper. You can use any type of paper, although a heavy weight paper works best. I used a decorative paper from my local stationary shop.

Remembering Grandma

Mount the Photographs onto Decorative Paper

5.  I made a front and back page for the booklet. I photocopied a vintage photo of my grandmother — don’t use originals! — and glued it to the front of the booklet. Use a photograph, drawing, or title that captures the focus and spirit of your book.

6. Punch a hole in the top left corner of each photo and the cover pages.

7. Tie the two covers and all the photographs together with a ribbon or use a metal binder ring (can be purchased at an office store.)

8.  Once your booklet is completed, the writing part can begin. (Or sooner, if you are inspired.) When using photographs of special objects, thinking about the memorabilia will bring back many memories. Write whatever comes to mind on the back of each photograph. No over-thinking here, just a quick written sketch will do.

9. Keep the booklet handy. You can add information as you recall more details. Once in a while I find another item from my grandmother. (Just last week, I took my rolling pin out of the cupboard, and realized that it had come from her kitchen.) Take photographs as needed to occasionally update the booklet.

Here is a sample of the quick writing I did on the back of one of the photographs, the photo of the china gravy boat.

This is perhaps my favorite object I have from Grandma. It’s a Noritake china gravy bowl with a matching saucer, and my favorite part, an elegant but tiny matching ladle. She and Grandpa Harry received it from his great-aunt when they married in 1919. I remember using it on special occasions such as Thanksgiving dinner. I always loved it, and Grandma gave it to Robert and me the summer we planned our own wedding.

In our family we used the gravy bowl frequently while the kids were growing up. I think whenever we had gravy with a meal, one of the children would ask if we could “please use Great Grandma’s bowl.” The kids used the bowl and tiny ladle while I cautioned them to be careful–I couldn’t help but utter words of warning!–but all three kids, from the time they were barely in school, were allowed to ladle their own gravy onto their mashed potatoes from the precious china bowl.

We use it to this day, and everyone thinks of it as one of our more valuable family heirlooms.

If you wish to share any of your memoir project, feel free to share in the comments, or even leave a link to your project. Next month, we’ll explore another quick writing prompt and discuss methods for storing your growing memoir stash!

Photos: Grandma and Brother © 2010, Grandma Lillian © 2010, and Sentimental Objects © 2010,  Bo Mackison

Previous Articles in this Series:

  1. Collecting the Memories of a Life: An Introduction to Writing Your Memoirs
  2. Writing Memoir: Using a Favourite Search Engine as Your Personal Muse


7 Responses to “Make a Photo Keepsake Booklet For Your Memoir Project”
  1. Thank you again, Bo, for more fabulous ideas!

    Being the sentimental one in my family, I have kept all of the old objects, passed down through my family from my parents and grandparents. My mother’s wedding & engagement rings, a brass dish & a pair of scissors which belonged to my maternal grandmother and a beautiful old silver fob watch owned by my paternal grandfather, spring to mind immediately.

    I am recording my memoirs at and have included a couple of photos there so far. There is so much more to add, though. It is the kind of project that has the possibility of being never ending, just as when tracing your family tree!

    The love you feel for your grandma shines through your words. I’m looking forward to hearing more of your own personal memoirs and perhaps those from others who have been inspired by the Memoir Space.

    My mind is already whirling with more ideas, since reading this post. :)


  2. Anne Maybus says:

    I love this idea. Thanks, Bo. You make it seem easy to do and what a keepsake you have at the end. That will become a real family treasure, won’t it?

  3. pve says:

    Love this idea! I want to make these for my sisters!

  4. Bo, I love it. One of my most treasured possessions is a handwritten list of baby names my mother wrote when I was expected. Apparently, I could have a Helga. Those mementos are so special.

  5. Bo, this series is getting better and better! I love the idea of this little book – and what a wonderful gift they would make. I have a lot of mementoes from my Grandmother – this will be an inspiring way to cherish her memory.

  6. Bo Mackison says:

    Glad everyone enjoyed this month’s project. It’s fun and easy, and it would definitely make a great personal gift, too.