Friday, 21 December 2012

sepia stories

I have no memories of my great-grandfather, but he does look a lot like my dad in this picture.
My dad's aunt gave me this photo.  I love that she did, not just because now I can look after this piece of my family history, but because I also like it as an object. In the age of instagram and cellphone photography - however corny that may sound - I like holding images like this and look back to where it all began and what it used to be...

Photos like this are beautiful objects really, with their pretty, decorated reverse sides, all art nouveau and now foxed with age. To me the sepia colour makes these images and people appear ancient; it's the tan and brown world of old.

These other two are not family. My sister saved a couple of old photographs for me when they cleared out the garage space in their new home. She asked around and managed to find out only that the house belonged to an old cobbler who came from a long line of shoemakers.

I like them, even though their condition is less than perfect. The muse on the reverse with her out-stretched arms is still beautiful, even in her faded condition.

Then there's the cobbler family photo; funny how it is a similar feeling to gaze into these old unfamiliar faces of strangers who I've never met and my great-grandfather's who I've never met either.
There was something very odd about that wonky matted brown cardboard frame. It is of course home-made, it's makeshift and a bit clumsy but that wasn't what made it look so odd for me.
It looks almost leather-like, and I thought, a little creepy therefore... Well, it held a pleasant little surprise as I turned it around: it'd been fashioned out of a lid from a box of Christmas chocolates.

Then I noticed that little brass eyelet hit into the top of it - isn't it just like the ones you thread your shoelaces through..? And then I realized the brown paint on the front must be leather paint that cobblers use on shoes! It's not creepy after all, it's just been made by a resourceful shoemaker who was in need of a non-costly frame for a costly and precious family photo.

It warms the cockles of my heart when I find little details like that, and with a bit of luck - like my clever sister's single piece of information - the puzzle pieces fall into place and the object's history unfolds. Or at least part of it does.

I'm sharing this post with A Favourite Thing on the Mockingbird Hill Cottage blog.


  1. amazing olde photographs, it's haunting to look back on our past, and our past's past... and here we are today... a wonderful but odd thing. Photography - I am ever grateful. :) Lovely post Aniko. x

    1. thank you Louise! :) I'm pleased you enjoyed it :)

  2. I love old photos and also collect ones of people I don't know if the subject matter is something I like. Merry Christmas all the best in the New Year.

    1. thanks for your comment Denise!
      I hope you've had a lovely Christmas (I like the pink theme!) and a great start to the new year!
      best wishes! x

  3. Such wonderful old photographs! Seeing them always tugs at my heart.

    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

    1. thank you Sally Annie!
      there's a certain melancholy i feel when i look at old sepia photos too.

      hope you've had a nice Christmas too.
      Happy New Year! x

  4. These photographs are so wonderful. I love them, too. And you're right, they are not digital. We can hold them in our hands and, if we don't know the subjects, wonder and ponder about the story behind the photo.

    Thanks so much for joining in this week. Merry Christmas to you and yours.


    1. Thank you for hosting Claudia!

      I hope you've had a joyful Christmas too.
      Looking forward to future posts!

      Happy New Year!

  5. You are so observant! How great is it that you've noticed those details, and were able to see the actual human hand behind the object...

    I love going through boxes of orphan portraits in antiques shops, and the small heartache that comes from staring into faces of people that no longer are, or knowing they had full lives that elude me, or imagining how something as private as a portrait came to be in a random, very public box...

    1. i sometimes rifle through the boxes of old photos in junkshops too, but also get a bit uncomfortable like you said, a small heartache... it's strange how personal photos end up in strangers hands.
      that reminds me, there's a funny picture blog i like browsing; that blogger finds the most kooky vintage photos


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