Most of us have inherited dog-eared piles of old black and white photographs, which now languish unheeded in the bottom of a draw. Well it’s time to bring them out, dust them down and get them published. The past is the present trend and your photographs could form the basis for marketable articles, fillers and readers’ letters.
The over 50s market loves to remember old times. There are plenty of opportunities here for publication. In the UK, magazines like The People’s Friend want first person memories of childhood, special events, people and places. Accompanied by relevant photographs from your family album, your work has an excellent chance of acceptance.
Fillers and readers’ letters are also a good bet. Yours magazine has a regular slot, ‘The clothes we wore’, and invites readers to send in illustrations of fashion through the decades. Sometimes readers are asked to contribute recollections and pictures on specific subjects such as holidays or Christmas.
Genealogy is big business and the wealth of family tree magazines offers many openings. Family history magazines are looking for interesting stories about readers’ families that can be backed up by photographs. Pictures can also form the basis for less personal articles covering aspects of social history such as wartime, transport or housing.
In the UK, The Lady will consider articles on social history, especially when tied in to timely anniversaries. If you can provide suitable photographs with your piece, your income will be enhanced significantly.
Don’t forget the trade press as technological advances can sometimes be best illustrated by comparison with the past. Old pictures can also emphasise the illustrious history of a product or company. A picture of granny sipping tea from a vacuum flask on a picnic in 1920 might be of interest to Thermos or to a specialist catering publication. Check out Willings Press Guide at your local library for the definitive list of trade papers.
County magazines constitute another market for your old pictures. How about a picture of your local High Street in the 1940s? Compare it with a recent picture and write a feature about how things have changed. Take another look at your family portraits - the background scenery might prove just as valuable as the human subjects. If your ancestors lived in several different places or took adventurous holidays you might find you have enough material to approach several different publications outside your usual locality.
For UK writers, the heritage market is expanding, with much of the readership coming from a new generation of loyal expats. Articles about Britain’s rich history of people, places, traditions and folklore will be welcomed. Can you remember a regular event that took place in your childhood town or a now famous person that lived nearby?
Wartime memories are also popular with the older generation. Pictures of men and women in military uniform go down well with nostalgia magazines, particularly when accompanied by some lively memories or an authoritative article.
Thumbing through old photos can be an enjoyable way of stimulating new ideas. Who was that lady and why did she look so sad? Could this be the starting point for a short story? Looking at ourselves as children, or at loved ones who may no longer with us, may evoke emotions and thoughts that can be integrated into our writing.
Perhaps you are working on a non-contemporary novel. Use your photographs to get the historical details, such as dress and location, just right.
If you have a comprehensive collection of photographs of real historic interest, you might consider writing a non-fiction book. Do some further research to see whether your idea has real potential and remember that your chances of finding a publisher for non-fiction are higher than for fiction. If you are moved to write your personal memoirs - be warned. Unless you are famous or your life has been truly remarkable, you will hold little interest for publishers. However, as a legacy for future generations of the family, some find this a worthwhile project.
All submitted photographs should be clearly labelled with a caption, your name, address and title of your article. Write these details on an adhesive label and attached it to the back of the picture. Never write directly onto the print.
If you are wary about sending original photographs with your article query, enclose scanned copies in the first instance. If you are contributing readers’ letters or fillers it is probably better to provide the original print. Editors may not feel motivated to correspond with you for this type of submission but they usually do send your pictures back.
Louise Dop is a successful freelance writer and technical author. Her ebook, The Writer's Secret Weapon, brings together a collection of the best free online resources for writers and gives an insight into the writing life. With over 50 direct links to resources, this straightforward guide will show you the real-life tips and tricks that – armed with an Internet connection and basic computer literacy – you can try for yourself right away.