It's amusing to sort the photographs into categories, grouping ladies' elaborate hats, styles of facial hair, protraits of couples (he sits, she stands, or vice versa), sibling sets, family groups, and so on. These groupings may tell us more than that there are perennially favorite subjects for photographs, but it may be possible to extract deeper cultural insights if there are enough instances of a category. The evolutionary morphology of millinery must encode something more than the whims of fashion, and probably ties into intercontinental processes, which may be further documented in magazines. Similarly, given a large enough accumulation of images of craftsmen with the tools of their trades, one might be able to develop a more nuanced and personal history of technology.
These images are vernacular in the sense that they were primarily of interest to small numbers of people --immediate family and friends. Many were taken by professional photographers (and most are, in fact, meant to be portraits), though some of the most fascinating are 'snapshots', amateur productions which achieve a sort of eloquence via naive framing and selection of subject matter. Each is a bundle of details that might be decoded and turned into a story. Each is an undefended glimpse into the life of a real person or group of people. I poke fun at a lot of the subjects, but deep down I realize that I love them, and that, after 40+ years of looking at them, my own life is entangled with theirs, though our temporal existences mostly don't overlap. I rescued them from junk-store oblivion, and putting them up here breathes new life into their mostly-anonymous selves.
My categories have gradually emerged as I made subsets of the photographs. Within any category, the order of presentation is tentative and provisional, and in a few cases I've included an image under more than one heading. I've found it VERY interesting to look through the corpus defined by these sets, and I continue to tinker with commentary and sequence.
Here are a few comparisons:
This pair addresses juxtaposition and character:
The two images have nothing to do with each other historically (as far as I know, there's no other relation between the two people except that they're Nova Scotians and their portraits fell into my hands...), but to my eye they epitomise the sorts of judgements people make. The gentleman on the left seems to radiate Success, and the poor schlub on the right is surely the embodiment of Failure. Or do I read too much into what we see before us? There's more to say about this...
Some images fall into genres. One such, found in every era, is The New Car, beautifully epitomised in this tintype, bought at Mrs. Oickel's in Green Bay, Lunenburg County.
I surmise that this splendid gentleman was the proud owner of one of the first horseless carriages in Lunenburg --an alternate title for this one is "The Sin of Pride".
Some 50 years later, Jimmy Eddy was photographed in his new car:
I did a video to summarize some of these essentials: