Time is an unstoppable force in many ways, something that at present cannot be challenged. Once something has passed, it is over forever, and there are so many people and events that will never be seen again.
Photographs are the lingering echoes from the lost past, little bits of memorabilia that can give us insights into the imagery that cannot be reclaimed. People long dead will live on forever in the pictures we have of them, though over time even those can be forgotten. That is why it's vitally important that we keep them identified.
Almost everyone who lived during the latter half of the 19th century onwards has had a picture taken of them at some point, though a great deal of those older pictures have been forgotten. So many unidentified faces may lurk in plain sight, simply because there is nobody left alive who remembers them. Younger generations often ignore the past, and sometimes fail to care until it is too late. This is how ancestral lines and family photographs can be lost and forgotten.
It's always fortunate to find a photograph with an inscription on the back. Those who have the foresight to jot down something as simple as a name help to assure that these faces and places are not forgotten. Those who know must leave more than the picture itself, but also some key to identify the people and places, lest they become little more than an odd curiosity.
As many unidentified photos as there are, I fear there are many more still that have been destroyed by the ravages of time. How many family photos have sat in a damp basement, or steamy attic, and become faded beyond recognition? How many have been burned in house fires, or simply thrown in the trash? Too many. With today's technology, it's fairly easy to scan and copy images, so hopefully the worst of the damage has been done, and we will not lose anything further to disaster. Backup those old family photos, and spread them around to keep them alive!
Those of us today who care about the past must work vigilantly to preserve what is left from bygone eras. We must take special charge of our family lineage, and make sure to preserve it for future generations, or our children will be left wondering in vain.