What will strangers think when they come across OUR photos in 100 years? That is, if the digital age doesn’t kill the physical, printed photograph…
I make many photo prints of both my daughter and myself. I love the idea of our being “found” decades after our lives are over — in a dusty attic, in a box at an estate sale, in a flea market or an antique shop. We will be anonymous, two-dimensional faces someday, but a curious type like myself might come across one of our photos and wonder, “Who was this? What was her life like? What was she thinking and feeling at the moment the shutter clicked? What is her story?”
I create images and stories, but I also love to collect them. Below are a few antique photos that I’ve discovered/purchased in the last few months. The people in the photographs may be gone and forgotten by most, but HERE, they get a chance to shine once more. Yes, even “The Kid”.
Photo 1: Photography was often a serious, uptight affair during the Victorian era — much like life itself — so these ladies (daughter and mother, perhaps?) are ALL business. SRS. BSNS. They look like strong women of the era, and that means they’ve likely given birth to about 20 kids each. The backbones of huge ass families, they’re probably just freakin’ TIRED…tired of not being allowed to vote, tired of their husbands treating them like property, tired of looking for the kid who went missing yesterday (there are just so MANY to keep up with!), and tired of worrying about Tuberculosis or whatever disease is sweeping through the town this week…goddammit, if someone would just invent antibiotics, already! If the photographer doesn’t wrap things up in a hurry, they will murder him and hide the body. By appearances, the photographer survived, and the end result is a great photo — ladies in proper Victorian posture, their soulful eyes gazing into the distance, their expressions perfectly matched. But I’m telling you, seriously…do NOT fuck with these two.
Photo 2: This pair of young ladies…NOT so serious. Especially the one on the right, who’s totally about to lose her shit as the shutter goes off. You can tell that she’s “the friend you can’t take anywhere” — the one who ALWAYS says something highly inappropriate at a fancy dinner party…or who gets a crazy, uncontrollable case of “the church giggles” during a funeral. But she’s just SOOOOO much fun to be around.
Photo 3: You can tell by the collar — and also by the fact that someone spent the film and money making a photograph of him when it was not a cheap ordeal — someone loved this animal. How handsome and proud he looks! He lives in the middle of nowhere, on a muddy road surrounded by fields (and what’s up with those weird-ass trees?), but no matter to him – he is loved! He has it all!
Photo 4: This is scandalous for the 1910’s. I mean just look at these two — leaning into each other, hands on each other’s thighs…her legs are even spread open, for cryin’ out loud! He’s wearing a uniform, possibly about to leave on some important military mission. This can only mean one thing: he is 100% about to have some sex. Look at his face — he knows it. He is GLOATING. She’s practically having sex with him as the photo is being snapped. I don’t care if she is his fiance, his friend, or someone he met just five minutes before the photo was taken…later that day, THIS GUY GOT LAID. FACT.
Photo 5: Sing to the tune of “Milkshake“, by Kelis: “My moustache brings all the girls to the yard, and they’re like, It’s better than yours. Damn right. It’s better than yours. I can teach you, but I have to charge…” Etc.
Look out, ladies! In the 1800’s, there was nothing sexier than a man with a full, well-groomed moustache, and this gentleman is seriously rockin’ the “John Wilkes Booth” look. I’d like to think he had a wicked sense of humour, and charged ladies a penny each to pet his studly ‘stache. Note, for those who collect/are interested in antique photos: this photo is not a Dagguereotype or an Ambrotype, but a FERROTYPE.
Photo 6: Stand back and make was for THIS Dandy — he is one DAPPER Mother Fucker! At first glance, I thought it was a woman, but I discovered that it was indeed a male. Look at his fantastic shirt! I’ve never seen one like it – in ANY era. And that cool blazer, that slicked-back, perfect hair? It’s obvious that he either… A) had a personal stylist B) was a flamboyant, artist type or C) was gay. Possibly all three? I can’t tell, but I’m sure that had I met him, I would have tried to sleep with him. Because damn it, I’m always a sucker for unique/stylish types. And of course — my luck — he probably would have liked dudes. Oh well. Maybe I could have borrowed some of his clothes??
Photos 7 & 8: These are two of the most beautiful images I’ve had the good fortune to find. I am always searching for captivating PHOTO BOOTH pictures, as they are one of my favorite types (not far behind Polaroids and Daguerreotypes), but when I found this set, I almost cried. Two African-Americans who sat in the same photo booth with the same background — Mother and child?? Siblings??…I wish I knew who they were. They have such lovely faces and expressions, and the child (in coat and hat) is so absolutely haunting…
Photo 9: Two of the most unhappy-looking people to ever stand in the ocean. I’m sure it’s on account of the absolutely absurd swimming caps they were forced to wear on their heads that day. (Their bathing “costumes”, however, I LOVE…but they would become a lot more fetching when they started to be produced in the striped pattern that became popular a few years later). Smile and hang in there, you two…clothing that is functional, comfortable AND stylish is on it’s way!
Guy on the left: “Ummm…tell me again — WHY are we doing this??”
Girl in middle: “We look like freakin’ idiots…”
Guy on the right: “Look, let’s just do what this asshole wants so he’ll stop taking photos and annoying the PISS out of us.”
All three (shouting): “CHEESE!!”
Photo 11: It may be in the worst shape ever, but this photo is still one of my favorites. It introduces us to a very important figure, second from the left. He has been pointed out for you — someone marked it on the photo in INK. He is simply “The Kid”. This was the guy in school who needed no name, no introduction. He was the Badass Supreme, the guy who always had access to cigarettes and his parents’ liquor cabinet. In fact, they all appear pretty well LIT in this photo. Looks like they’ve been sippin’ some of the sauce, courtesy of The Kid (always capitalized). The Kid, by the way, doesn’t give a FIZZUCK. He’s dark, handsome, dangerous, and doesn’t have a care. I’d even venture to say he has Mafia connections of some sort. EVERYBODY loves The Kid (…OR ELSE)!
Thumbs up for great antique photos! And I have a birthday coming up, so feel free to recommend a cool spot that has great antique photo finds, should you know of one. I’ll be going hunting for more treasures very soon. Until next time —
Jenn, a collector of unique/wonderful/forgotten things…