From pyramid walls to castle halls, artists captured the likenesses of families for posterity. With the invention of photography in the mid-1800s, any family of modest means could have a photograph taken. With the revolution in amateur photography early this century, anyone could become the family historian. As the decades passed, the occasion for taking a family photo has grown more and more casual. Formal portraits have given way to candid snapshots.
Now Americans are in the throes of another revolution in recording family histories. Teachers must set aside a section for videographers at any class play or event. Digital cameras and the Internet instantly deliver images of a teenager's Kool-Aid-green hairdo to friends and family. Christmas-card portraits are being supplanted by computer-assembled full-color montages of the year's events.
One thing, at least, probably has not changed. As you look at these 20th-century photographs from the perspective of the almost-21st, you can still imagine someone standing in front of each of these family groups. Someone who, an instant before he or she snapped the shutter, said: "OK, everybody - smile!"
You can view past installments of this series on our Web site. See: www.csmonitor.com/snapshots.html
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society