27 April 2005

hooked

I'm not sure when it began, the somewhat obsessive collecting of found photographs. I do remember when the habit kicked into high gear though-- we were in east atlanta at a great little junk shop called 'craptastic' (a name so wrong it can only be right), happily navigating our way through stacks and piles and boxes of stuff (aka crap). as always, hoping to unearth something worth all the unearthing. I had just decided against purchasing a pair of authentic seventies platform clogs (clogs that also doubled as roller skates: CLOGS AS SKATES, PEOPLE) when I spied an open suitcase in the corner. the sign taped to the side said 'ADOPT A RELATIVE, TEN CENTS' and there were hundreds of old photos inside, mainly snapshot-style/photobooth portraits of men. I spent the good part of an hour deciding which photos to take home with me and the ones you see here were (are) my absolute favorites. they continue to stand out in a collection that now rivals all collections. I fell in love with the faces and good lord, the style-- effortless style for days, what I imagine it must be like to be smooth, the very definition of the word cool. kind of tragic that they had no one to treasure them, no family memebers to lovingly pass them down through the generations. with this, I was hungry to collect. I snatched them up wherever and whenever they could be found: an antique store in illinois, a flea market in italy, an abandoned box at a swap meet. anywhere and everywhere I traveled, I looked and looked and always managed to bring at least a couple home with me. I am certainly not original in my pursuit here-- people have been deep in this gig long before I hit the scene. and I have only begun to scratch the surface of the resources out there (if you're at all interested in vernacular photography, take a lookie here, here and here). the appeal is universal-- I think we are unable to resist the anonymous nature of these photographs and how engaging they are to the imagination. the story, photographer and subject are all unknown, leaving the viewer to come to their own conclusions (or not) regarding said discarded snapshot. plus, there's the aesthetic-- rich looking sepias and silvers that are hard to come by today. and I think people love the idea of rescuing these unknowns from an eternity in the local landfill. I don't know about you, but I can't stand the idea of my family photos lost in a sea of slimy garbage somewhere. that being said, I cannot save every lost photo I find. I have had to narrow my search (and collection) and find myself especially drawn to those that showcase individuality and personal style, relationships and odd little details. special bonus points (dingdingding) if I find personal handwriting on the back. I am hoping to share them here every once in awhile. too good to be hidden away in my cigar boxes, too good not to share.

it pains me to say that 'craptastic' has long since gone out of business. I do regret passing up those platform clogs/rollerskates (I'm begging you, dear reader-- share the vision and imagine the GREATNESS) but at least I didn't turn my back on the contents of the suitcase in the corner. here's to photographic orphans everywhere and two bucks well spent.

11 comments:

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  2. awesome! you know what a fan I am of photos. I love the images you scanned in. Can't wait to see some scrapbooking.

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  3. these photos are amazing. so beautiful and hauntingly sad. i have to tell you.....i have a quote book where i write down quotes from random people and this quote is going in it "here's to photographic orphans everywhere and two bucks well spent." well said.

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  4. That sounds like a meridith style hobby :)
    You write so well!

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  5. Andrea:
    This is a great post. I have long felt the way you do about abandoned pictures - with no one to lovingly protect them and show them to others. Now you're doing that to these "lost" souls. Great. I have some old pictures of Ward's great grandmother, Pearl Mae (Grannie) that I'll try to send to you - you'll love them.

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  6. "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers..."

    Mal. 4: 6

    Great post as always.

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  7. Enjoyed this so much! I've seen some of your photos and they are priceless...a picture is worth a thousand words.....a moment in time captured forever....what would we do without them? Loved this post!

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  8. jan- those old films sound fascinating! glad they found their way to a good home. and yes- those clogs were so dangerous. and they were platforms, too! can you even imagine? still, I wanted to try them out at the park. don't ask me why.

    meredith- I love the idea of a book of random collected quotes... sounds amazing. you have no idea how honored I am to be a part of it... you made my day.

    wardsmama- love those pictures you sent! will have to post some family photos as they are so wonderful... thanks for sending them to me...

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  9. hey thats my uncle sammy, and I want them back!

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  10. hey look! i found these clog skates on flickr! not much ankle protection. great post. i love seeing your collection of characters!

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  11. i hate looking at my own photographic history ( i get very sad for some reason) but love other people's -- i have 4 awesome yearbooks from plainfield (nj) high school (estate sale this past w/e), '41, '67, '68, and '69 -- the history of that town is amazing (wikipedia) and the photos/eras are fantastic -- sad to think many of the boys in those graduating classes went off to fight a war...

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