Inspiration in Ancestry

We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies. ~Shirley Abbott

When I dove head first into photography more than ten years ago. I had no idea that it may not have even been my idea. But an idea that was handed through a long line of photographic blood running through my veins.

Perched on a stool in the basement of my photography school, eyes wide with excitement. The darkroom became my sacred place. The room seeping with mystery, darkness, tools, light, negatives, I was in awe of the images forming in front of me. The smell of chemicals, the wet paper, the tongs, the thrill of it all.

The first time an image took form on photographic paper before me, I cried. Overwhelmed by the beauty in creating images. I was drawn down into the darkroom for hours on end, time after time, I was there when it opened and begged for just one more minute, as they would be trying to close the doors at night.

The darkroom became a sacred place. A place where I found my peace through images, art and creating.

A few years ago my Uncle Jim had been doing some research into our ancestry. Where the Wallis' came from, how we got here, who we were and if it may evolve into clues as to who we've become. He mentioned something about a great relation being a photographer. 'Oh cool' I thought, and carried on my way. Never realizing how incredibly inspiring it was. I was preoccupied.

The ERIN WALLIS PHOTOGRAPHY studio is now built and I started to think about what Uncle Jim had said those years ago. Who? Who was a photographer? Are there more photos? Could I see them? Could I have a copy and put it in the studio?

So I asked. The response, gives me goosebumps and chills and makes me smile all over.

My great great great Grandfather was William Gillard, an Artist Photographer from Gloucester, UK. He owned and operated his own photographic studio for a number of years. His daughter Enid De Samarez Gillard also a photographer married Henry James Cribb Wallis who later became a photographer as well (my great great grandparents). Enids brother was also a photographer. This is so incredibly inspiring as I've been able to see images created by them. It makes my heart dance in thinking that behind the lens of a camera over a hundred years ago, my ancestors may have also felt the same peace, or thrill.

(Henry James Cribb Wallis and Enid De Samarez Gillard both Photographers, my Great Great grandparents)

I have always been fascinated by photographs. Nearly every time I've ever been to my grandparents home, I would inevitably wind up digging through old photographs and asking questions, and listening to stories of the images. Some photographs had amazing stories, for some, the people in them, remain nameless their story lost with time. I could look at them for days, and repeatedly, and have done so for the past 30 years. I will do it forever.

I find something so magical about seeing faces of our past. Of my past. They may not be famous, or be interesting to anyone else. But to me, I care. I want to know their stories. I want them to live on. I want to be able to say to future generations, this is your great great grandfather, he loved to golf. He ate tomatoes right out of the garden like they were apples and made his own wine from grapes grown off his own vines. I can look at those images a thousand times. I will do it forever.

This all brings me around to the importance of photographs to me now. Documenting life, moments, people, history, and doing so artfully, honestly and with passion. Won't we all be memories one day? Who knows, maybe no one will be searching through my old photos looking for clues about who I was, or what fueled me through my life.

But, maybe someone will.

My Great Great Great Grandfather William Gillards Medals and Accolades for Photography 1879.

On my moms side, my Grandmas mom, Great Grandma Maisie born in Ireland personality as big as the world. Maisies Daughter my Grannie Goodheart living in Victoria, BC.

Second from left, my Grandpa. Don, who grew every kind of vegetable and created his own breed of apples.

My dads grandparents.

My grandma with great Gran and right image is my dads mom and dad (one of my all time favorite images) This is my papa, I love this photo more than I can express. Here's to you all!

As the Lakota Sioux say so eloquently to honor all relations and those who've walked before us, simply "All my Relations!" or Mitakuye Oyasin.