Saturday, February 17, 2007

Snap Shots

Did you grow up looking at family snapshots that were carefully saved in the family album with tiny corners holding the photograph down? I never seemed to tire of looking at them when I was a girl. Maybe that was where my facination with photography began. There are many of them that, like the one above, are so much a part of my visual history.

I think this was made before I was born but I remember this house where my Mother's family lived. I think this was made about 1933-1934. It was during the depression, in Texas. Times were hard. In the picture is my Grandmother, with Aunt Ruby hiding behind her, my Mother standing sideways, Aunt Opal beside my mother and behind them are my Mother's sisters, Lucille and VadaMae. I love the way the picture is a little off kelter and the way my Mother's skirt is blowing. I look at the faces and wonder what the conversation was, why the smiles, why were some hiding or almost hiding. I love the clothes, the relationship of the Mother/Mother-in-law to the young women. The car....was this a Model-T? And the chickens bring back lots of memories of watching while my grandmother wrung the chicken's necks, plucked them and then sitting at the long table in the kitchen on a bench eating fried chicken. I wonder who made this image. How did my Mother end up with this negative? This image facinates me

Pitchertaker recently wrote about seeing an exhibition at the Fitchburg Art Museum of a group of Ansel Adam’s “snapshots” made during a trip aboard a sailing yacht with his friend, David McAlpin. He writes about Ansel's images but what really interests me are a couple of the comments.

Steve Williams said...
We have lost the sensibilty of snapshots that existed decades ago. The ease and economy of photography in the 1970s until now generated a flood of pictures that seem to be meaningless compared to the snapshots I see in my grandparents albums. Those images despite their size were treated respectfully in shooting and presentation. Steve writes the blog Scooter in the Sticks

And then Pitchertaker answered him: In the 20's, 30's, 40's and probably into the 50's, making a photograph, snapshots if you prefer, were considered a luxury. At least in my family. It wasn't cheap to own a camera, and take your exposed film to the local drug store, or to the local portrait studtio for processing. Almost always they were contact prints with fancy borders.

Old snap shots do have a special feeling and I think the fact that they are scarce and have a certain innocence about them make them special whether they belong to you or not.

What do you remember about your family snapshots?


Steve Williams said...

When I look at my parents and grandparents albums I see evidence of the importance of those images in their lives. They are evidence of lives lived and very deliberate in their making.

It is the deliberate nature that has the most impact on me. From the shooting to presentation, it's all good.

And I love the construction of the albums. I can't buy the kind of albums they had. Everything I find today seems cheap and without any soul.

Thanks for the link to Scooter in the Sticks! A Vespa is the perfect photo vehicle for someone traveling light!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Anonymous said...

My parents had a fancy new fangled Polaroid Camera in the 50’s. Immediate gratification! – Sadly most of those Polaroid’s have faded away.


Howard Grill said...

I remember my dad in his Air Force uniform in photos taken shortly after WWII. He used to keep them in the top drawer of his dresser. Some of them had that serrated edge all around the small images...I'm not sure, was that because they were Polaroid or just the style of the day for black and white prints?

pitchertaker said...

Oh, to find such a gem as this image. I would have thought if lifted from the LOC's FSA on-line files. A Russel Lee, or perhaps a Walker Evans. Leaning house, the model A, the chickens, and above all, the dignity still present in the family members speaks so strongly of the American spirit during the depression. Just beautiful.....