Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by old photos. There is something so curious about looking at pictures of my parents on their wedding day; young, excited, nervous and totally innocent about everything the future held. I didn’t exist at that time. I had no knowledge of that event, so important to my life, occurring. So did it happen? It’s the old saying – if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound if there’s no-one there to hear it? In the past I have attached the same philosophy to events that took place before I was born. I somehow questioned whether they really happened. That’s why photographs are so important. They reaffirm those bygone days, they prove they did happen.
I do not know a single person in these photos. I found them in an bric-a-brac shop in Brighton where there were shoeboxes crammed with hundreds of old photos, 25 pence a piece. I naturally gravitate to these pictures. I feel such a sense of sadness that all these happy memories end up in an old box out with the trash. These people lived their lives, they had those days recorded for posterity, for their children and grandchildren to know and reaffirm their existence. And here they were, in a junk shop being bought by a stranger.
I could write lines and lines about how these pictures make me feel. But a picture paints a thousand words, so I’ll let you hear them for yourself..
ABOVE – TOP RIGHT IMAGE: I love this photograph. On the back is written in pencil “Taken 29/5/59”. This woman is definitely British. There’s something in the smile, the heavy thickset coat, the unkempt 1950s hairstyle with a touch of flyaway frizz. This is a woman who has seen two wars, she’s survived the Blitz, maybe lost a husband or son in the process. There she is, best smile on for the photobooth, new lipstick for the occasion. The Sixties are just around the corner.
ABOVE – BOTTOM RIGHT IMAGE: (written on reverse) Mary Gibbons 19 YEARS TAKEN 1964 when at Royal Berkshire Hospital Reading. Date stamped 2 DEC 1964.
ABOVE – TOP LEFT IMAGE: No date on this one but I’m guessing early/mid 1930s. Such a beautiful face and the lighting is gorgeous. This is a picture a soldier would carry to remind him of what was at home.
ABOVE – BOTTOM LEFT IMAGE: No clue about this one, but I wonder why she is in the woods. This looks more European.
ABOVE – TOP LEFT: (written on reverse) “Zur Erinnerung an unsere Hockzeit am 29 April 1961”. Unfortunately I have no idea what that translates to in English. I love pictures of people on their wedding day. She looks a little sad though.
ABOVE – TOP RIGHT: No date on the reverse, but there is a stamp by the photographer: “PHOTOGRAPHED BY HORNBY’S STUDIOS LTD. 39 CHURCH STREET ENFIELD. TELEPHONE ENFIELD 1868”. I love this outfit. If I had a civil ceremony for my wedding, this would be the exact style I would go for. Beautiful lace dress and matching coat. I wonder if that is her new husband or her father..
ABOVE – MIDDLE LEFT: No writing, but I would say early-mid Sixties. I love the boy’s combed, slicked hair and the lady’s string of pearls. Sunday dinner? I love tea in a delicate china cup.
ABOVE – BOTTOM LEFT: (written on reverse) “Gt Yarmouth Double 1946/47”. The person standing on the left is actually a man dressed in female clothing, which I’m thinking would’ve been a little shocking out on the street in those days? The others don’t seem to mind. Love his shoes.
ABOVE – BOTTOM RIGHT: I am guessing this is another wedding picture. The sign behind them reads “Standesamt Schoneb von Berlin” (I think). It makes me so happy to see pictures of older people getting married. Perhaps they were childhood sweethearts who somehow got separated. Both the man on the left and the woman on the right appear to be looking at the groom, who has a fantastic rugged authority – black shiny shoes, formal pose, hankerchief in jacket pocket. He looks proud of his new wife.
And last but not least, two of my favourites..
ABOVE – RIGHT: (stamped on reverse) “PHOTO BUCHHOLTZ GRONAU”. There’s some handwriting I can’t make out “Bruauchenburg” maybe? – but there’s a date…25.11.1973. I love the movement of the man’s head in this – shaking his head perhaps in answer to a question. The shaggy coat, the stern Frau about to walk out, but what makes it for me is the old man’s hearing aid coming out of jacket pocket and into his ear. I like to think it was an iPod..
ABOVE – LEFT: This is my absolute favourite. I wish there was writing on the back of this one. Beautiful face. Perhaps her lover is taking the photo? The zip on her dress is a little undone. He’s just whistled and she’s quickly turned her head – click. This is what Henri Cartier-Bresson calls “the decisive moment”.
I aim to frame some of these and have them seen as they were intended to be seen. To me, this is why photography is so important. We record the people we love, the events we want to remember. One day those photos may too end up in a charity shop box (or languishing on a computer as is the current norm) but without those photos, those moments would be gone forever.
And so I’ll go on collecting..