The Times of Our Lives – Via Google Photos


For many years, I was a make-believe photographer. I carried around Minolta cameras everywhere I went and took pictures of people and the earth (geology). Now all I care about are the people pictures!

It has come time for me to share these visual memories with my friends and family.


In this article, I outline a two-part photographic project that I have begun. The first part of the project is what I call the old-school project. The second part of the project uses deep learning through a neural network approach to perform facial recognition to build photo collections of people from my lifetime.

I chose to use that fancy terminology to make it look like I know what I am doing. What I am really doing is just using the power of Google Photos to document my life and organize my pictures by my friends and family.

I am doing this work for my friends and family. This is why I call this article “The Times of Our Lives.”

Good morning, yesterday
You wake up and time has slipped away
And suddenly it’s hard to find
The memories you left behind
Remember, do you remember…

The Camera Evolution

My cameras have continued to evolve from the original Minolta SRT-201 (Figure 1) to the X-570 (Figure 2) that were used by me to take my first selfies, long before the word was created. So the next time you see your kids taking 10 selfies per minute, remember that you probably did it too!


Figure 1 – Me and my Minolta SRT-201, taking my first documented selfie. Auto focusing was not available on that model. I must have been about 17 years old in this shot since I still had some hair!



Figure 2 – Me and my Minolta X-570, taking my second documented selfie. Auto focusing was available on that model, as well a motor drives and other advancements. This selfie used a mirror in a car visor as the reflective surface. Even then, I was exhibiting great creativity.


We now use a Sony Alpha 7 RII and Samsung Note 5 cameras to collect an unbelievable amount of information. Toni is by far and away the best photographer, while I just like looking at the results and handling the data.

I do believe that I am the prototypical digital hoarder, but I contend that this is really good stuff. If you are interested in seeing another photo project of mine, you can read this article. That article discusses the techniques I am using to document Sarah, Colton, and Jett’s lives.

Part 1 – The Old-School Photo Project

Back when these pictures were taken, they were not free. We had to buy film and pay for processing. Little did I realize so long ago how much I would appreciate taking these pictures. These pictures are the memories of my life and they help my brain stay young by allowing me to go back and see my friends and family from decades ago.

This is a great project on many levels. I literally can get transported back in time, directly to the spot where I took the picture. I remember the feelings, the lighting,  and the scene. I remember growing up so fast, that now I appreciate every moment I have with my friends and family. There are so many photos that represents special points in time, in which I would trade everything I own to go back to that moment, just for a minute, to relive those experiences.

For example, how many of us can ever forget the most famous Granny Franny pose, which features her reading the newspaper while lying on the couch? I saw this every day-of-the- week, for years on end. My mom was a prolific reader of newspapers! I would give anything to be able to ask her this question: “Hey Mom, what are you reading  about right now?”.

It is pictures like this that make it worth my time to bring my old printed photos into my digital photo collection for part 2 of this project. Tomorrow, I am going to tell you why this is going to be special for you, too.


Figure 3 – Franny McMullen, reading the newspaper after a long day at work. Usually I ended up covering her up with the newspaper if she fell asleep on the couch.


For many reasons, I thought it would be a good idea to take pictures of these pictures, to share them with my friends and family in digital form. This also gave me time to help Jett learn the names of his family members. Some of the pictures are too old to be photographed properly, but I included some of these because they are really meaningful to me, and I suspect they will be to some of you, too.

Figure 4 shows the mess that Jett and I created yesterday as we took about 250 photos of photos. I still have a lot more to do, but at least I have gotten a start on the project!


Figure 4 – The old-school photo project.


In this collection, there is currently no organization. What this represents is a collection of pictures across many years, of hundreds of people that have had positive and profound impacts on my life. To each of you, I say thanks because you are all my friends.

To see the pictures already in the collection but not yet cleaned, go to the bottom of this article. Before doing so, read the next section to see part 2 of the project, which is much more technologically advanced and will be really cool when it is done.

Part 2 – The Neural Network Project – Facial Recognition

There is good news coming in part 2 of this project. I am training a neural network to perform facial recognition of my entire digital photo collection. This collection contains many tens of thousands of pictures dating back to the early 1990’s.

Figure 5 show more than 100 people that have already been trained on the network. Some people have been trained from birth through now, such as Jett. It is amazing to see how much we change and how fast it happens.

Google also allows automatic detection of things and places. This occurs if your photos contain spatial location data.

Ken's neural network

Figure 5 – The Ken Black neural network as of 9/14/16 (click for expanded view).



Once I’m finished with this project, I hope to share this body of work so that everyone can view and download copies of these photos if they want them. When your face is recognized in a photo, you are put into your own collection and I’ll be able to send private messages to everyone that wants access to their photos.

I can’t wait to share it with everyone. Until then, peace be with you and thanks for reading.

The Next Steps on this Journey

I have written the second article in this series and you can click here to go read itThis article explains the science behind this methodology.

 The Old School Collection in Random Order


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7 thoughts on “The Times of Our Lives – Via Google Photos

    • Hi Laura,

      It’s great to hear from you! Doing work like this is such a pleasure. I love being able to share it and tomorrow I’m going to educate everyone on why this concept is so awesome. Now I’ve got to write the article tonight!


    • Hi John,

      It is great to hear from you! I am very happy to hear that you liked what has been done so far. I sure do miss the old days.

      I have a lot more to do on this project, but the Google computers are going to do the hard work for me. Tomorrow I’m going to explain how that happens.



  1. Pingback: Why Google Photos Is The Easiest and Most Powerful Software I Use | 3danim8's Blog

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