These Years Gone By…is a love story told through my grandparents letters from World War II. From these letters, artifacts and old family photos, I have woven together a narrative that tells the story of this critical time in world history and challenging time in their personal history.
The photobook created from the project has been selected for several exhibitions including: the Lucie Foundation Photo Book Exhibition at the Month of Photography in Los Angeles opening in April 2019 and the Click! Photobook Exhibition in October 2018 at Horse and Buggy Press in Durham, North Carolina. Images from the project have also been ‘chosen’ for the American Photography 35 annual online archive.
A hard cover trade version of the book is currently available for purchase below.
View spreads from the book
About the Project
These Years Gone By…is a love story told through my grandparents letters from World War II. My grandfather Kenneth Shaft was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army in World War II and on May 8, 1945 (“Victory in Europe” day) his company was 68 miles outside Berlin.
Shortly after my grandmother’s death in 2008, my mother discovered about 300 letters that my grandparents had written to each other during World War II. They had been kept by my grandmother for over 60 years and inherited by my mother. These letters provided a new insight for my family into the lives of my grandparents during this critical time in world history. From these letters, artifacts and old family photos, I have woven together a narrative that tells the story of this challenging time in their personal history.
At the heart of the project are my grandfathers letters that encompass the simple things: being young, insecure and in love, trying to maintain a relationship from a great distance, and being away from those that you love. These letters also contain the observations of a young man during a difficult time in our nations history. There is a confidence in my grandfather's writing voice that he was helping rid the world of evil forces. But there are times when he was unsure if what he was doing was the right thing, though he was certain that he was fighting for the right thing.
While reading the letters that remain and looking back into the depth of family history, I started to have a different view of that history and these people became real. These letters inform my interpretation of the world and the events that shaped so many young people of my grandfather's generation. For me, it's a journey through family history, a way to clarify my experience and understand my existence.
As you age you learn that time and memory are not tangible, but elusive elements. As time passes, I look for something to hold on to. Family history and the artifacts left behind provide me with something tangible.