Tuesday, June 15, 2010

lost stories and old photos

A few weeks ago I went to the Fremont Sunday Market and my favorite vendor had a box of old photographs.

This is not an uncommon sight at flea markets, and I know that artists often use such photos in their work, though I get some squidgy feelings about using up original photographs, particularly old "heritage" ones.

Intrigued, I began to look through the box and was amazed by what I found. The photos were mostly old, black and white or sepia. Some with deckled edges. I tried to guess what kind of film, or cameras had been used based on the size and shape. Some of the photos had a slight metallic look to them, due to the chemical process that had been used to develop them. It was a great find.

As I flipped through the photos, I began to see a few patterns. You could tell that these photographs were not taken by professionals. There were blurry shots, overexposed or badly composed shots. Shots that reminded me a lot of my own photographs.

Looking through the pile, I got the impression that even though these weren't professional photos, that whoever was behind the camera thought that film was precious, and that the memories were important. It seemed like most of the photographs I saw were reserved for the big things. Babies, weddings, vacations, photos of people in the armed services.

As I dug into the box, I saw so many snapshots, so many pieces of other peoples' lives. I was captivated.

I began to wonder what the stories were behind the photos. Who were these people? Where were these photos taken? Why was this worth remembering? I knew that at some point, someone had thought these people and places were worth remembering permanently, worth photographing.

I wondered who had taken all these photos, and how the photos had eventually ended up at my flea market.  I began to look at the backs of the photos for words, dates, names.

Aside from a few pictures with smudged spidery writing, most of the photos were blank on the back side, the details of dates and people and places lost in time.

I thought: this is why I scrapbook.

Going through these photos, I wanted to try and fit the pieces together, to figure out the story behind these old photos. Even though these people weren't my family, that I would never know them, meet them, I wanted to read about their stories. About what life was like for them at that time, in that place.

At the same time I was enjoying myself looking at all these photos and thinking of stories for them, I was a little depressed to think that whoever had owned these photos no longer had them. Had they passed on? Had their family thrown them out?

Looking at all these beautiful memories, preserved through time and film, I knew I wanted to take some of them home with me, where they would be cherished once more.

I had to restrain myself, but limited my collection to only a few, all the more precious, to remind myself of why I take photos and why I make story books.

These were my favorites.

I call this one "The drive through the giant forest in the awesomely old school car." Based on this photo and a few others I found in the bin, I think this was taken somewhere here in the Northwest. I love how it's a little blurry and overexposed. Probably not taken with a tripod. Or enhanced with photoshop. ;)

I like to imagine that these fellows were just out on an old school road trip. Isn't that car just the greatest? It reminded me a little of the 7 Gypsies car.

This one struck me for a few different reasons. One, horse drawn carriage. How cool is that? Second, I love the silhouettes of the people in uniform. I also love the light strip of double exposure on the right side. So perfectly imperfect. I have no idea when or where this was taken. It could be France, it could be New York or Buenos Aires. I don't know, but I sure wonder what was going on for this person on this day.

This photo totally reminds me of G's parent's house. I also love how that dapper young fellow on the porch is leaning out to look over all that snow. He looks so proud. Did he just get home? Or is he pleased that he doesn't have to go into work today? Hmmm...

This one was a little damaged, but I loved it anyway. Look how happy these girls are, just strolling along on this base. All gussied up to meet their fellows perhaps? I love it (and their shoes).

I grabbed this one for Greg's dad. He is an old car aficionado, so I thought he would get a kick out of seeing this old school beauty. Seriously, why don't they make cars look like this anymore? It cannot be any harder to park than my beat up Corolla. Right?

I freaked out a little when I found this one. How cool is this? And no, it's not a postcard. It's a real photo. Seriously, how romantic is this? Sodas from glass bottles? I wonder what the occasion was, and if one of them had had to set the timer and run for it, to get this shot. Just fantastic.

This one is just so special to me. It is so peaceful looking....A black and white photo of the sunset (sunrise?) over the desert. I wonder what it would have looked like in color. I bet it would have been spectacular.

Thanks for letting me share these with you. I hope you found them as special as I did.


Genevieve said...

Oh wow, what incredible finds...it's so sad that they were discarded. I love how each one shows a different snapshot of history...the fashion, the architecture, the different modes of transport...but more than anything it's fascinating to imagine the story behind each one. Thank you so much for sharing! I have an uncontrollable urge to go through my grandparents' old photos now...

kim said...

Very cool - such wonderful photos! I also saved a stack of photos that were my grandparents. They are both gone now and I so wish I could ask them about the details. Maybe I'll write up my own stories to go with them. Thanks for sharing and for inspiring some creativity today!

Christina said...

these are all so wonderful! chills!!!

Patty said...

This post is really something near and dear to my heart. I collect vintage photos, I feel like I am saving them from being thrown out. I always tend to get the ones that call to me, just like you have done. I hope to scan them into the computer and print out copies to work with. I just adore them!

Melissa Mann said...

Absolutely love this post, Christina. I've looked through old photos at various thrift stores before and often wonder the same things....

*kim* said...

Thanks for sharing your special find. I love looking at old photos regardless of whether or not I 'know' the people.

kelly X said...

I love , love, love this post. Old photos, whether they are your own or not, are special. Thank you for sharing and I'm glad you took some home with you.

Danielle said...

That is an awesome find, I love vintage photos, even if I don't know the people. I just picked some up that were going to be discarded at a garage sale a couple of weeks ago that were taken in the 30's I had the advantage of the people's names being written on back.

There were also a lot of letters included in the discard pile, so I have a bit of history on the people because the letters were written to one of the subjects of the photo from both of the parents.

RoseH_Huls21365 said...

It is easier to get than to keep it...................................................................

Lee said...

What a lovely post! I enjoyed seeing the ones you picked out (and your musings on their stories)...but even more, I enjoyed reading the related perspective about your motivation for scrapbooking. I, too, see old photos sometimes and think - "didn't their families want these?" Thanks for sharing! =)

Kristy said...

What an amazing find...!

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