This morning, I sat with my mother and watched a British episode of Antiques Road Show. This is not exactly an extraordinary event – I've been watching those programs for long years, both the UK version and the US version. I like knowing about old and collectible things, especially as I used to use it as an excuse for amassing the things I amassed…
Anyway, one of the things they featured was a set of scrapbooks kept by a woman who had been a schoolteacher during WWII, and had, in the hours after school was out, ridden her bicycle all over her home region so as to take pictures of people. Snapshots. Nothing fancy, just the sort of pics you'd take with a standard point-and-shoot so you could share with friends and family in your scrapbooks.
But then, her purpose was pretty cool. She was taking these pictures in order to send them to soldiers and sailors away from home and missing their families. The program she worked for was promoted and managed by the YMCA, begun during WWI, and continued for the next couple of decades. The YMCA Snapshots From Home program seems to have been run for UK, US, and Aussie/NZ servicemen (and women), with volunteers in all those countries offering their time and energy taking pictures and sending them off.
So, my idea is this: why not make a movie, a series of films, or even a nifty, BBC-quality television series based on the experiences of some of those volunteers? Start each story with a letter being sent out from the front, from a ship in the North Pacific or somewhere, and have that letter (or a set of letters) opened and read, then follow the photographer's day in seeking out & posing the picture/s.
The appeal is there, isn't it? Would you go to a movie or watch a show which tied the active heroes to their homes by way of a middleman (well, usually a woman) with a camera?
Any way you look at it, though, there seems to be plenty of room for research and storytelling. I'm not in any position to gain access to the sorts of records necessary to, say, write a serious paper or book on the subject, so, if somebody else thinks this sounds like a fun project, feel free to go there. Just send me a copy of your first manuscript or screenplay, when you do.