History of photo sparks new project

Bex Hall
2 min readJan 28, 2022

A memoir-in-objects is on the drawing board

In 1989, my dad came to visit and brought with him a 9x12 manila envelope full of photos from his father’s estate. I chose only one to keep. The one Grandpa snapped while he was in France, Dad explained.

Grandpa’s photo circa 1940s somewhere in France

It’s of an artist painting en plein air. Her canvas appears complete, but is she finished? Is that grandpa’s coat, because it looks masculine. Was she a lover or a stranger? Why this moment and what was Grandpa’s motivation?

Mystery unsolved, I tucked the photo away where it remained for 33 years. It slipped out of its stack the other day and, once again, the unanswered questions surfaced.

I’ll never know the story behind this photo. But what if Grandpa had left a written account? What if he had written short stories about the things he kept? The objects that were important to him, for whatever reason.

This is the spark that ignited the idea for my 100 day project.

Online, I discovered the Portland Art Museum has hosted Object Stories since 2010, a personal storytelling project and exhibition. I found and read “The Secret Life of Objects” by Dawn Raffel and other similar books.

The stories are poignant and honest. Objects we keep may seem ordinary to others, but can have deep and meaningful connections. This fascinates and resonates to my core. I hear a whisper and feel a nudge to pursue this.

I’ve wanted to write a memoir since 2014. I’ve taken classes, workshops, and written over 20K words and it’s gone nowhere. But this, this format, makes sense. The flip side of this coin contains a bonus: for the day I suspect my daughters may have questions, here will be some answers.

So far, I’ve gathered about 60 objects. I’ve written index cards for each, with brief descriptions of the memories, events, and people connected. It’s not all sorted yet, but that’s part of the fun, the plans and prep work. The project launches on February 13th and between now and then, I’ll keep at it and share what I learn as I go. Until next time, xox.

Bex Hall is an artist who writes and a writer who arts. She blogs at bexhall.com and creates in Studio BE overlooking the Ohio River. Her current work in progress is a memoir-in-objects.

Bex Hall

Bex is an artist who writes and a writer who arts. Current WIP: memoir about cheating death, 2nd chances & the power of kindness. Blogs at bexhall.com.