Life Stories is an ongoing project which I began twenty years ago. It is a collection of portraits and interviews with people holding up photographs of themselves from when they were younger. In the process of going through photographs from their past for this project, people share the story of their life.
There is great power in our stories. Finding the courage and taking the time to ask questions and listen to answers, storyteller and listener alike can find great meaning.
I have been very fortunate to find individuals who have shared their life stories with me. The settings and circumstances have been varied: retirement communities, an Oregon ranch, drinking scotch at 10 in the morning in the home of a retired judge, in a backyard in Utah’s desert.
I have spent hours talking with and photographing people, going through family albums with them, drawers of memorabilia and piles of old papers. Their stories unfold in the time that we share.
My hope is that by sharing these portraits and stories, Life Stories honors all of us, subjects and viewers, storytellers and listeners, for generations to come.
I hope that these stories encourage and inspire people to get more involved with each other and with their communities, to seek out the meaning in their own lives and the lives of others. My goal is to grow this project so that people from around the world can contribute photographs and interviews in the spirit of the Life Stories mission.
You can visit the Life Stories website by clicking here. A next step for Life Stories is to update and expand the website to make it interactive, allowing people everywhere to share their stories and explore others' stories.
If you are willing to share your life story or would like to get involved with this project, please contact me.
Everyone’s story is worth telling.
Could there be a better name for a cowboy than Jim West? I don’t think so. At first Jim had no interest in participating in my project and seemed, at best, amused by me. After I spent lunch at their table taking, and a few hours walking around his ranch, photographing and talking with his wife, Carleen, he agreed to pose.
Jim was charming and funny but private. I didn’t even get his birth date and would have felt foolish insisting. He did jokingly ask his wife if she had told me that she was a few years older than him. Carleen slapped him on the shoulder and smiled. Jim and Carleen invited me back and a month later I stopped by again knowing they would soon pull out of town, headed for Elko. They sent me home with some of Carleen’s homemade jams.
Photographed August 27, 2005.
Renate Dollinger was a Jewish child living in Germany when the Nazis rose to power. She was 9 years old when the Nazis shot and killer her father in the living room of their home. By the time she was 14 schools that allowed Jewish children to attend were systematically being burned down. She secretly confessed that she was thrilled at the time, not understanding the profundity of what was really happening. That realization came soon afterwards, when German soldiers pushed their way into the house she shared with her mother and sister in the middle of the night. They trashed the house and took whatever they wanted. She remembers fondly the collection of little statues that they took. Still a young teenager, but with no school to attend, she tried finding work but anyone who hired Jews put their own families and lives at risk.
Renate is an amazing story teller. To read more of her life story, please visit the Life Stories website.