There I was on a Saturday morning, in a quiet retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the urban life. I sat on a stone bench under shady tree, listening to the sounds of running water and chirping birds.

The moment of silence was broken when my interviewee arrived, a bubbly go-getting nun. I was interviewing her for an organisational history project before she jetsetted to a new mission halfway across the world.

To our interview, she brought with her a large yellow bag of photographs. Often, interviewees bring one or two photos to an interview, but never a whole bag, so far. I was excited.

These were her collection of photographs taken during her time in the organisation. She talked me through the most precious. First, the black-and-whites taken in the late 1960s. Slowly, we progressed to the blurry coloured photos of the 1970s and 1980s, and the much sharper and natural looking ones of the 1990s. She left the organisation in the late 1990s so the photos ended there.

The photos, many posed group shots, did not seem extraordinary to me but they were the key to a mother lode of memories for my interviewee and the organisation. Once, she highlighted the significance of the moments captured, and the stories behind the photos, I began to see the photos in a new light. I tried my best to record these stories and memories, as they are an integral part of the history of which the photos are only the trigger

We had to end the interview after an hour and half, and I begged to take the photos back to scan. Although reluctant, she finally relented, possibly because of my honest face or irritating whining.

When I started scanning the photos at home, I was impressed by how well these photos were taken care of. While there were two small albums of photos, the rest were bagged, properly labeled and the photos were interwoven with paper to prevent them from sticking. It was not professionally done but that was what made it so heartwarming. Someone had painstakingly cut hundred of pieces of white paper and slipped the photos between them. Treasuring their photos, to me, is a reflection of how much they treasured their memories. ~ Stephanie

In the Workroom: Photo memories