All photographs capture time: old photographs capture history. This is a random image from my “Lost and Found” box – I know neither man nor dog, neither time nor place. There was a pencilled caption on the reverse of the tiny print which said “D and Louchs“, but which is which I have no idea. The image, unknown as it is, now features on my daily desk calendar: D and Louchs have been brought back to life for a day, looking out at the world with a mixture of expectation and warning.
Category Archives: Pictures From Nowhere
I have a box in my room full of photographs, negatives, postcards and other odd bits of ephemera waiting to be scanned. Some are my old photographs, some are of family members from generations long gone, but most are unknown oddities I have acquired over a lifetime’s fascination with images. When the weather is too hot or too cold, too wet or too windy, I will dip into the box and see what emerges.
Today it was two large format negatives that appear to be film stills from a 1975 film called “The Maids” which starred Glenda Jackson, Susannah York and Vivien Merchant. How on earth these came into my possession, I have no idea, but for countless years they have cohabited my “To Scan” box with pictures of Uncle Frank’s holidays and postcards Edwardian Keighley.
The fact that I haven’t seen the film, I didn’t take the photographs, and I have no idea of the circuitous route by which they came into my possession, is completely immaterial. There is no need to ask “what are you doing here?”. The images themselves are all the explanation that is needed.
FOUND 1 : The joy of found photographs is that, whilst they provide a visual superstructure, you are free to construct your own backstory on their framework. It’s like an exercise in painting by numbers; where motives, emotions, and destinies are the colours available.
According to the GoogleLife App on my smartphone I have almost used up my allotted monthly allowance of words, and I’m running low on thoughts as well. So you’ll have to make do with just this picture; which is a pity because I could have said a lot about it!
As far as I know there isn’t a name for it: it isn’t a recognised pastime, there are no societies for the propagation of it, nor journals that record the annals of its proceedings. I am, however, dedicated to digging up old images. It has the distinct advantage – when compared to its second-cousin, archeology – of not exposing you to quantities of mud, or worms, or rain, or snow. It is environmentally-friendly, draining only enough electricity from the grid to power-up a scanner, and making the use of old photos that would otherwise go to land-fill. And, at the end of the day, there are few joys that can compare to the discovery within the tattered and torn remnants of some unknown photograph, an image that is truly beautiful.
Well, there you go – doesn’t three months go quickly when you have nothing better to do than produce your own daily calendar. When I started the project, I thought it might last a week or two – a month at the most, but now I am surrounded by calendar pages, and I have posted one to my blog every day since the beginning of the year. But now the sky is blue, the lockdown is easing and life pops its head around the corner to remind you its there. I will keep on producing the daily calendars, for the next week or two at least, but I will abandon the daily posts and get a life.
My room is packed from floor to ceiling with boxes full of old photos, old newspapers, old writings and old memories. Occasionally I randomly dip into a box and scan what emerges. Today it is a copy of the New Penny Magazine from – as far as I can make out – about 1898. It contains an article entitled “Little Housewives” which could form the basis of a PhD thesis on gender stereotyping at the turn of the twentieth century. Here is but a short extract:-
LITTLE HOUSEWIVES : A Visit To A Housewifery Centre. The frying-pan rules the world, or rather those who wield that powerful weapon do so; or to put it in a more matter-of-fact way, the happiness of man depends in great part upon the skill or otherwise of those who manage the household; or to come really to the point, a good housewife is a boon and a blessing to the man who is lucky enough to win her for his mate.
Bearing this weighty fact in mind, I turned my steps one afternoon towards Walworth, S.E. or, to be precise, I went down there by train, and found myself first in Beresford Street, then in a school-yard, full of merry maidens of immature age, who looked on me, I have no doubt, as a strange thing strayed from another world, for what business had a man there? Before me stood a small house, at whose door I timidly knocked, I entered to find myself in a neat kitchen, on the left I saw an equally neat scullery, on the right a cool-looking tidy sitting room. I was in the “housewifery centre”, which I had come to see, where I had heard that girls were initiated into the mysteries of house-keeping.
COOKERY AND DOMESTIC ECONOMYLESSON IX : Theory – (a) Eggs; their chief constituents. (b) How to test and preserve them. Demonstration – Poaching an egg. Custard pudding. Boiled batter pudding. Class Practice – In above and boiling an egg. Principle Taught – Dietary value of eggs, various methods of using and cooking them.
DOMESTIC ECONOMY AND LAUNRY WORKLESSON IV : Theory – The process of washing, rinsing and blueing clothes. Blue and whence obtained. Demonstration – Washing “fine things”, rinsing and blueing.
It will form a suitable calendar photo for today, and perhaps remind me, not only how to boil an egg, but of the importance of social change.
First Day Of Spring. ‘Nuff Said.
This is a photograph of unknown origin, the type of thing some people call an orphan image, which I must have acquired at some point as part of a job lot of old photographs nobody wanted any more. There is, however, an almost painterly quality about it: someone has taken the time to pose the group and the composition is outstanding. Equally, it has the ability to suggest both famous people and occasions: blink and I see President Roosevelt inspecting plans for the Panama Canal, blink again and it is Eiffel planning his tower. I’ve coloured it a bit and cropped it a bit, just to prove that you can’t spoil a good photo by messing with it. I even did a Google Image search to see if it was a copy of a more famous photo, and surprise, surprise, I found an exact match! It appeared in a blogpost five years ago by someone who said: “I have found this old photo and I don’t know where it came from!”. The post was from me – which just goes to prove two things: that life is a constant process of rediscovery ….. and my mind is beginning to go!