Two moms enjoying a chat at a toddlers birthday late 1950s. A classic snapshot that perfectly captures the tête-à-têtes between the mothers with an offbeat composition. Tempting to crop it but I liked the deep well of the veranda space and the way the balloons poke in at the top.
The square format slide had degenerated to a murky magenta. I considered converting it to black and white but in the end liked this soft pink shade, with desaturated color.
The term ‘instant relative’ has emerged in popular culture. It refers to those photos of people found at flea markets. You can purchase them, take them home and presto! you have instant ancestors on your wall. I’ve seen them in holiday houses and restaurants, cloak rooms and hallways. In one holiday house I stayed in they hung above the bath. On the one hand it’s a shallow decor trend but on the other hand people really do start feeling a connection with the people in found photos. There’s definitely something deeper going on.
These instant relatives – photographed in the UK in about 1965 – all come from a single collection. One inherits the loving, friendly or intimate gaze without any effort, and perhaps that is their attraction.
Snapshots such as these had great significance for their owners in colonial South Africa, depicting as they do one’s connection to a tribe in a country of origin, far away.
With the remove of time and no real familial connection, the anthropologist’s eye comes in. I love the details of domesticity, the houses and clothing tell a thousand stories about middle class English society.
Here’s Bob Richter explaining what instant ancestors are and how you can welcome them into your home.
The cultural practice of photography is usually hidden – you see the snapshot that was taken not the photographer in the act of taking it. That’s why I love this 1966 find in which a woman is photographing two girls in the small front garden of a house in what looks like Mowbray, Cape Town. I haven’t identified the camera but, with it’s top viewfinder, it looks like a 1940s or 1950s model. Their names are written on the frame: Lesley, Gillian and Alison. Maybe you know them? I almost feel like I do.
A long time favorite, this image. Our focus is on the young woman staring back at the camera – obviously annoyed, even angry. Its gratifying to see a genuine, unfiltered, un-hidden, un-bidden emotion on display. With so much posing and smiling for the camera, as we are taught to do, this is refreshing. Its also a lovely composition, and one which snapped into place as soon as I cleaned it up and converted it to black and white.
For Christmas this year, I had a bit of fun restoring this slide of Christmas Day gift opening back in the day, and making a ‘hidden object game’ with it. Its fun to look closely at the details of 1970’s culture in a home setting and reflect on what’s changed, stayed the same, or come back into fashion.
Click on the pic below for a larger version, and have fun!
The date is 1966 and that’s all we know about this old row. I love the forecourt with its flowerpots, hunks of wood and washing line. Mom and kids perch on a doorstep; this is their everyday life. The buildings are dilapidated but ornate with their broken plaster, old clay brick, and richly colored, fading paint.
Those old walls fascinated me and I knew that restoration could bring them back to life.
A companionable garden tea party back in the day. Mugs of tea, cigarettes and a good book. The red white and blue painted garden furniture is a great color combination. Not sure about those wooden ‘skis’ the legs are attached to though, I much prefer the way it looks without.
This slide was in good nick. With a bit of tweaking I made it less blue and more sharp.
So many things spotted in old photographs can bring back memories of the past, and often it is furniture, familiar but now exotic because we no longer have it. The swing seat, although I’m sure it is not entirely gone, is now seldom found in ordinary gardens. Recently, on Facebook, I posted another image of a garden party with a swing seat and it was this piece of furniture that got more attention than anything else. Here, it is elegance, style and casual romance that define the scene, and of course the swing seat says it all. Love the neat arrangement of tot glasses and the man’s reflection in that shiny silver tray.
A closer cropping, deepening of the shadows, warming and sharpening … and the handsome subjects pop right out at us!
A rare and very beautiful image. Not many parents *lovingly* photograph a child doing a domestic chore like this. The ordinariness of the scene is rich with detail too, like the old-style tiles, rounded over the edges, the boy’s hand knitted jersey, and the big china basin. People have been known to fall in love with complete strangers in old photographs, so don’t feel weird if this is one you come back to, I’ll be right there with you.
The original colors are ruined but it still did better restored as a color image, subtly warmed up with a filter.
What a jolly little tea party this is. Give me that swing seat all to myself! I think its England but I do know (from other slides in the collection) that these people are proper South Africans. They also know how to drink things other than coffee and tea, in fact I strongly suspect there may have been a tot of something else in those cups. Also think I can spot a melktert there on the table.
I remember staying in Rondavels on family holidays – they were a popular form of accommodation at family style resorts. The round interiors, thatch roofs, and polished cement floors combine in my memory so deliciously. This outdoor family breakfast is a perfect way to start the day.
Thank you to Kodachrome, this early sixties slide was in excellent condition. Tone and color were improved and I removed the photographer’s shadow.
I’ve loved this image for a long time. The simplicity of the fifties decor, the serenity of the moment. The reminder to take a little quiet time, alone, and just read a book.
This benefited from a black and white conversion. The original colors were ruined and it was hard to recover anything good given the amount of noise at the pixel level. In black and white the interior coolness comes across well.
“When I see a picture I don't like, I actually have a slight gagging feeling in the back of my throat. When I see one I like, a feeling of relaxation washes over me. It’s like falling in love.”
From: The People who Collect Stranger's Memories (The Atlantic September 26th 2016)