The images that follow are nearly all similarly anonymous, though some offer indications of place of origin, and occasionally it's possible to put a name to a sitter. Rarely (but tantalizingly) a name will lead to further details of a person's life, but usually we must rely on tissues of supposition and inference. So we ask: what can we extract from these images? They are real people who lived real but generally unknowable lives.
In studio portraits (which most of these are), the sitters are pinioned by the formality of sitting before the camera, and are all making some attempt to present themselves so that the photographer can capture the earnestness that they imagine to be their essence. Each image stands alone, and invites our eyes into a dialog, in which we discern a common humanity. They come to us as exposed, guileless, often risible in their quaint clothes and now-unfashionable hair styles. We may imagine for them personalities and casts of mind, and it's easy to come up with titles that express what we read into the scanty evidence of the photos. No harm is done: all are across the River Styx and on to whatever comes next. I think it ought to be the Pratchett Diskword version and/or the Gaiman Sandman version myself.But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs. (George Eliot, last sentence of Middlemarch)
A Gallery of Literary Provocations
one image per page, maybe spiral-bound so that it can lie flat,
maybe with and maybe without hints.
Some other collections:
Thomaston album -|- Lynn English High School, 1929 -|- from Bluenose Physiognomy -|- from Who Was Joe Wilner?
(This gallery will be
reorganized, subdivided, annotated
as and when I'm inspired
and of course more images will be added
as and when I get around to scanning them.
Meanwhile, scroll through them and meditate upon
their essential quidditude, one by one.)
(see more detail here)
continue on to a Thomaston album or Lynn English High School, 1929 or Bluenose Physiognomy or Who Was Joe Wilner?