Project Heirloom: a tapestry of American roots in homeland soils

Photographer: Elaine Melko | Image captions: Elizabeth Atalay

Project Heirloom is a unique body of work photographed with an archivist’s sensibility, made up of portraits and minimalist still-lifes to document the heirlooms held by American families with immigrant backgrounds. When you visit the website that Elaine has created, in collaboration with writer Frances de Pontes Peebles, you can view not just Elaine’s photographs from this beautiful project, but also read the narrative which Frances crafts from the stories their subjects tell about the times they bring to share. They describe this project, “It [is] an ongoing work, with the intention of showing the beauty and complexity of our country, and an attempt to trace the journeys—whether recent or long past—that brought us here and made us all Americans.”

Caption writer Elizabeth Atalay spoke worked with Elaine to retell the stories exclusively for Confluence Magazine. (Hover over the image to read the detailed caption.)

Elaine Melko: “I want to take pictures that make you remember how the moment felt. I have always enjoyed taking pictures with polaroids, then film and now my digital camera. After working at the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers I decided to follow my love of taking pictures. I live in a Chicago Bungalow with my husband and three kids. Some clients I have had the pleasure to work with have been the Chicago Tribune, Crate and Barrel, McGarry Bowen Agency, American Express, Olive Garden to mention a few.” You can see more of the Project Heirloom work here.

Captions writer Elizabeth Atalay is an avid snapshot photographer, but is much better with words than with a camera. In her 15 years as a research editor at National Geographic magazine, she’s had the chance to help research and craft captions for some of the best images in the world. Now she’s thrilled to be working with Confluence Magazine to help give voice to the next generation of documentary photographers. Elizabeth is available for captions writing, editing, and consultation.