Some of the very best old photographs seem the most unlikely -- years ago the most prominent place to take a family photograph was on the front porch or in front of the car, a setting that might seem dull but that can reveal lots of information. It seems a bit harsh, but all too often I find myself looking past the people in the portrait to focus on the porch details or other architectural goodies -- I suppose that's the preservationist in me.

Some of the very best old photographs seem the most unlikely -- years ago the most prominent place to take a family photograph was on the front porch or in front of the car, a setting that might seem dull but that can reveal lots of information. It seems a bit harsh, but all too often I find myself looking past the people in the portrait to focus on the porch details or other architectural goodies -- I suppose that's the preservationist in me.

But most people do like looking at the people -- what they're wearing, their facial expressions, how they're interacting, etc. People very often come into the Meeting Haus to look through their house file, and the few who are lucky enough to find photos of previous owners are usually tickled. So wouldn't we be good stewards of our community by making sure that continues to happen in the future?

So here's what I'm thinking:

I'm thinking it would be great if people throughout the village took pictures of themselves in front of their homes, be it the whole house, your favorite nook or cranny, the new addition, or the front porch. Inside or out, anywhere you want.

I'm thinking these "family" portraits can include anyone you want. If you consider your German Village family your dining pals, then take a group picture in front of your favorite restaurant. If your German Village "family" spends time helping maintain our parks, take a picture there. Or maybe your German Village family is made up of just the occupants of your house. Of course it goes without saying that including the four-legged members of your family is a must.

Most of all, I'm thinking these photographs will be wonderful records of the past for the future owners of our homes. Not only will this project serve as photo-documentation of our neighborhood today, it will be a treasured gift for people sorting through house files in years to come.

The best and perhaps most helpful part of this project will be the captions, which I'll ask the subjects of each picture to provide. It can be as simple as "Joe and Sally Smith, 588 S. Third St., 2008" but even better would be descriptions of who the people are, what they do for a living, when they moved in, what renovations they did, etc., etc. Truly the sky's the limit.

So if you're game, please take a photograph and either mail or e-mail it to me at 588 S. Third St., 43215 or jgraichen@germanvillage.com. I'll keep all the photos together in one collection and will put a copy in each individual house file.

And be sure to take the photos as you are -- we want to document the trends of 2008, not recreate the history that's already so well documented.

This deconstructed German Village family portrait will be a unique way to honor the simple buildings we've made our homes and celebrate German Village as a neighborhood and community.

Please join in the fun and participate in this family portrait -- our neighborhood won't be fully documented unless we get a picture of you!

Jody Graichen is director of Historic Preservation Programs for the German Village Society and columnist for ThisWeek German Village.

Jody

Graichen