Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Mysteries Not My Own

Here are some of the old, forgotten photos I picked up at the street market on Golborne Road on Saturday. These were all in a box together and it's entirely possible they're all from the same family.

I go through flea market photos pretty quickly, usually glancing at them for no more than a moment before putting them in the "buy" or "discard" pile. (And then I go through the "buy" photos again, and often discard some of those on the second pass. I try to be very selective.) It's hard to say what makes me rescue one picture over another. It's more a feeling I get than anything else. I like a sense of spontaneity -- as in the sunny backyard scene above. I like a photo that expresses liveliness, or seems to suggest some mystery or tell a story.

A successful picture, to me, engages our interest but doesn't need explaining. It stands alone in such a way that we don't need to know who the people are.

I liked these kids' expressions, and also the fact that they're happily eating fruit. So healthy!

This little picture is very mysterious. It's clearly cut from a bigger one, and it's folded in the middle as if it were carried in a wallet or locket. When folded, it's smaller than a postage stamp. And yet that kid looks so glum! Who carried it? Why this photo? Who's been cut out of it? Why is the kid's leg wrapped up that way?

On the back: "Ladywell, July 1926." (Ladywell is a neighborhood in South London -- maybe that's the Ladywell they mean?)

Imagine what these people would think if they knew this photo would be made electronically available to the whole world almost 100 years after it was taken. They'd be gobsmacked.

A typical sunny day on an English beach -- with a blanket and a sweater! I have another photo on a different beach, featuring a different person, with that same blanket. Clearly it was the family beach blanket.

These folks sure look like they're having fun, despite the weirdly industrial background. They appear to be on a boat. Are the women comparing their sweaters?

On the back:

The Chrysler Eight
The farm garage
Wilbraham Mountains in background

The only Wilbraham Mountains I can find online are in Massachusetts, so perhaps this photo is American. Not sure how it wound up at a flea market on Golborne Road!

"Why yes, I am inordinately proud of my big dead sunflower."


Linda Sue said...

These photos are fun- they would make great prompts for a writing class. Especially the complicated folded shot of the child with leg. So many stories for that one! The woman with her sunflower looks very like something i saw in the Tate photo exhibit. I love old photos. They inspire short stories. Anything can happen.

gz said...

I think that you do have photos from one family, at least most of them.
More likely she is proud of a sunflower head that big and full of seeds?

Yorkshire Pudding said...

It's salutary to think that all of the people shown in these photographs are probably dead. We are here for a while and then we go, leaving the ghostly echoes of our existences behind us.

Andrew said...

The woman who bumping arms are avoiding touching each other because of a terrible infectious disease running rampant. The man's jacket is spoilt by the bulging pocket.

I am not sure about the car photo. I initially thought it is American, but the house to the back of the car looks English. I really don't know.

Wouldn't the sunflower have it flower head full of black sunflower seeds?

Yael said...

Not long ago I saw a documentary that someone made about old photos that he saved from the flea market, he searched for the family, found them and made an amazing film about it.

Moving with Mitchell said...

It’s not only entertaining that you do this, but heartwarming, as well.

roentare said...

These black and white retro photos are so magnificent

Ed said...

Most definitely the car is a Chrysler Imperial 8 made between 1931 and 1933 which helps to date the photo. The previous model, which was the first one produced, set a speed record across the United States in the late 1920's. I remember reading a book or watching a movie about that record in the past.

Boud said...

I think the sun flower lady is about to take out the sunflower for the seeds, and wants proof of size first. It was taller than Edna, see?

Bob said...

The one that stands out to me is the dead sunflower. Why?

Susan said...

I like the photos and they seem mostly from one family. You've sort of brought them back to life on the blog. It is a reminder that we are all just "passing through."

Marty said...

Talk about gob-smacked -
I LIVE in that same Wilbraham, Massachusetts!
And my husband grew up on Wilbraham mountain.
Also in my four books, the fictional town of Calvin is basically Wilbraham.

Ms. Moon said...

Wow! Great selection. The children in the first two photos are absolutely beautiful. The one at the top almost makes me cry, thinking about how life may have changed such a joyous child.
Do you think the second one (and oh my god- look at that girl's face!) may have been Christmas and they found that fruit in their stockings?
The child in the third photo- his eyes are haunting. Or her eyes. Yes. I just love these.
The woman in the last picture is ME! Those are her beans growing right beside her there and she grew the sunflower for the seeds and look how many she got!

Debby said...

I love these pictures! So many questions. It is one of my best hopes that someone will be flipping through blogs one day and come across yours and to their own astonishment, recognize one of your pictures.

Wouldn't it be amazing to have even one of these mysteries 'solved'?

Ellen D. said...

These are terrific, Steve. I love looking at old photos and imagining about what's going on in those lives. I think the Ladywell lady looks so much like Popeye's Olive Oyl!?! That dress, right?
Thanks for these, I'll be studying them for a while today!

Sharon said...

These are great. I agree about the 100 year old photo on line. It would be unbelievable to those people.
I love the expressions on those kids in the second photo. That's a keeper!
Wouldn't it be great if one day you got a comment from someone that said "hey, that's my mother. Where did you find that photo?"

ellen abbott said...

really wonderful photos Steve. You have a good eye.

Red said...

I can see that it would be eaSY TO GO DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE LOOKING AT THESE PHOTOS. I used pictures with students for writing exercises.

Allison said...

I love the old photos. One of the casualties of multiple downsizes before we had a scanner, is the chucking of old photos. Although the chucking was limited to people we didn't know, it's still slightly painful.

Catalyst said...

I believe the photo may have ended up in the Golborn Road flea market the same way you did. You ARE from Florida, aren't you?

Kelly said...

Catalyst has a point there....

I love hearing your speculations on all these!

Margaret said...

These are all thought-provoking photos. As a prior commenter stated, you've used these as fodder for possible stories or mysteries. In a writing class in college, we took pictures like these as writing prompts. I loved that activity!

The Bug said...

Fun! I especially like the last one - she's one of my people (I say, as I have an ancient peony directly in front of me).

Pixie said...

It's strange to think that probably all of the people in the photos are dead now.

River said...

The glum child probably didn't want to go to the beach in the first place and I think his leg isn't wrapped, but has a towel spread for finger wiping, he appears to be eating from a box of fried fish, so probably fish and chips on the beach somewhere?

Steve Reed said...

Linda Sue: I love them too, and I get so much enjoyment from salvaging images that might otherwise be lost.

GZ: Yes, I'm sure it's the size of the seed head! Still, wouldn't you want a picture with the petals on?!

YP: Yes, the transience of life is part of what makes these images poignant.

Andrew: They look pretty happy about that infectious disease! Maybe it causes hysterical laughter?

Yael: That IS amazing. I actually prefer the anonymity. It makes the images stand on their own.

Mitchell: I find them heartwarming, too!

Roentare: It's interesting what you can find in a flea market!

Ed: Excellent! I love that you know some of the history of the car!

Boud: Yeah, you're probably right. That IS a big sunflower, I gotta admit.

Bob: I just would have taken the picture several weeks earlier, when there were petals!

Susan: I do think the kids in the first two pictures are the same.

Marty: Wow! That's crazy! I wonder if your husband could identify the location of the picture? It would probably take some work to triangulate based on the mountains in the background.

Ms Moon: I think that third photo is very haunting. The kid seems so unhappy. For some reason it gives me a feeling of sadness or foreboding.

Debby: I have mixed feelings about that. It would be fine as long as they didn't object to my posting them online!

Ellen D: Yes, that is a very "Olive Oyl" dress! I guess it shows how that character really emerged from that specific time period.

Sharon: As long as they didn't get upset about it!

Ellen: Thanks. It's less my eye than a gut feeling!

Red: Yeah, they'd be great writing prompts for short stories, as Linda Sue said!

Allison: Yeah, I love pictures regardless of whether I know the people. I've chucked some of my own photos in the past and I wish I had them back now.

Catalyst: Ha! Well, that's true. Some wayward American no doubt brought it with him!

Kelly: It's fun to imagine the sources and the scenarios!

Margaret: Every picture tells a story, right?

Bug: Ha! The "dead flower club"?!

Pixie: It is a sobering thought! I suppose the kids in those first photos might still be with us, assuming they were taken in the '50s.

River: Oh, that makes sense. I did see that the kid appeared to be eating!

Jeanie said...

You had a great haul this time. Wondering if they were all that sharp and clear or if you had to run them through a program to bring out the contrast, because they're in good shape!