Saturday, July 09, 2011

Sepia Saturday 82 : An Exercise In Measured Randomness


The other day I came across a small bundle of photographs which I inherited from my parents. I must have acquired this stash several years ago and it has gathered dust in a forgotten box for many a decade. Bundled with an elastic band the prints are small - the largest are just two inches by three inches - and seem to date back to the 1930s. All lovers of old family photographs will understand the joy and sense of anticipation you feel when you discover such a stash - your first reaction is to examine them in detail and see what treasures you might have uncovered.

Something stopped me from doing this : something made me want to stretch the pleasure of discovery as far as I could, as far as that old elastic band would stand. So I decided on an exercise in measured randomness - to uncover the photographs week by week, to individually scan, enlarge and explore them.. I always find with old photographs - especially small prints like these - it is that process of exploration that is the most fascinating aspect.

So what have we in the first of the prints? It clearly shows a group of eight working men, mechanics or machine-men by the look of the overalls. And one face is instantly recognisable to me : the chap sitting on the right hand end of the seat is my father, Albert. The photograph looks as though it was taken in a park or garden, and the workers look as though they may have been on a break from work. I would guess it was taken in the mid or late  1930s - by which time my father would have been in his mid to late 20s. There are so many other things to note - their clothes, the fact that so many of them are smoking, the individual expressions on their faces. But attempting to describe what you can see on such a random old photograph is a bit like reading second-hand travel books : interesting, but not half as interesting as going out exploring yourself. So excuse me whilst I go and explore : I have a week until the second print is uncovered.

To explore more fascinating old photographs just visit the Sepia Saturday Blog.

27 comments:

  1. Wow, Alan! Lucky you ... what a find! I really like candid group shots like the one you have here because I find it interesting to try to figure out personalities from body language and the subjects' reactions to the camera. And one wonders ... did the chap at the opposite end of the bench have a former career as a silent film star?? One doesn't see too many Chaplinesque moustaches. Wonderful photo. Thanks so much for sharing. I can't wait to see next week's treasure!

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  2. Top left - that's Hitler, ain't it?

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  3. ...and the chap in the middle - dead, if I'm not mistaken. The rest are simply propping him up.

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  4. Wasn't the West Yorkshire Hitler Youth, was it?

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  5. Oh did I get a kick out of Chairman Bill's comment. I can't stop laughing. I noticed all the smokers too. You are indeed a luck man to have the fun of exploring those photos.
    QMM

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  6. I guess it is lucky to have them. You sure made a nice post out of it.

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  7. You have an interesting and different approach to a stack of old photos.

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  8. I would have been tempted to look at them all and oh and awe at them for a long time. Wonderful find..:)

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  9. Strange, but as soon as I saw the photo I thought I knew the man who turned out to be Albert. His face is very familiar to me.

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  10. It's always wonderful finding or receiving old photographs. They open another chapter. isn't the guy with the hitler mustache getting ready to pull out a gun?

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  11. It's always wonderful finding or receiving old photographs. They open another chapter. isn't the guy with the hitler mustache getting ready to pull out a gun?

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  12. Looking at old photos like these, I've often been struck by the way that smokers seems to display their smoking almost as a badge of honour, a desirable thing. My mother in law told me how hard she had to work at smoking!

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  13. Congratulations on finding the new "stash"--how exciting for you! This is a fine old photo indeed--"smoke 'em if you've got 'em!"

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  14. Great photo, Im anxious to see the rest and wonder what story the bundle will tell when you are all finished. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. I like the approach you've taken with these photographs, Alan. It's a privilege to share in your anticipation.

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  16. Alan, the guy in the front looks a great deal like my grandmother. She had money I'm told.

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  17. Alan, before I even read on, I picked out your father. Good looking man. I agree with Chairman Bill, the others all look like characters.....

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  18. Alan, you have much more self control than I have if you can look at only one a week! I recognized your father immediately with his curly hair combed into submission. I'm looking forward to seeing others of these photographs.

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  19. I, too, would never have the self-control necessary to only look at one per week... but I'm certainly looking forward to the rest of this "series."

    Nice to see that your dad passed his smile to the next generation.

    The two gents behind your dad look like brothers, by the way.

    @Chairman Bill: Hilarious comments!

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  20. Yes, I know that thrill, that sense of joy and anticipation. What a treasure!

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  21. I wouldn't have that sort of self control either, but since you're in control I will wait impatiently for next week to see the next one.

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  22. Ok now that I have stopped laughing from Chairman Bills comments I can type! What a wonderful find Alan, though I don't think I could contain myself and only look at one photo a week...I look forward to the coming weeks as you share with us the rest of the photos

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  23. was this park part of their workplace? they seem to have the whole place to themselves. or did they shoo everybody else away from the the place for this picture?
    ;)~
    HUGZ

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  24. You cannot help but notice the amount of people smoking in a lot of old photos. Sometimes young men with pipes, a rare sight these days.

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  25. You have such discipline to drag this photo stash on for weeks! I'd have immediately looked at all..those tiny photos do look great enlarged and scanned; I have ever so many too. This is a marvelous treasure that has again shown itself to you! Great group photo too.

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  26. Oh what a great photo, and such a cool treasure to have received and I too would enjoy sampling one by one and giving them each their own day of glory...and Chairman Bill might be right about his first comment! ha ha...just kidding...I'm sure it isn't....nice random selection!

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  27. Not sure about Hitler, but what was Dylan Thomas doing there on the front row? I have to admire your iron will Alan; I couldn’t do it!

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