Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sepia Saturday 192 : Flying Free In Imaginary Braces


When Sepia Saturday started four years ago we didn't have themes: participants merely posted an old picture of their choice and said something about it. Over the years, the idea of weekly themes emerged, but the themes were not words or subjects, they were images. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, it can also give rise to a multiplicity of themes - and that, I believe, is what has kept Sepia Saturday going strong week after week, year after year.

Which brings me to braces. Or suspenders if you are a follower of American English. Our theme image this week shows the bandleader Stan Kenton plus a couple of band members all wearing braces. It was easy enough to find pictures of men wearing braces in my collection of family photographs : braces were the elastic scaffold from which most self-respecting northern working class men hung their clothes. And so I chose a picture of my Uncle John and Auntie Doris, sat on the doorstep of their Bradford terraced house with two children. I have no idea who the children are: they didn't have children so they must have been borrowed for the occasion.

But when I examined the photograph, what struck me about it was not the children, nor was it the braces. It was something about the look on the face of Auntie Doris. There was a certain determination etched into her face and for some reason or another it reminded me of that most powerful photograph by Dorothea Lang of Florence Owens Thompson which is called "Migrant Mother". I suppose I could write a few paragraphs about the similarity of the images and a few more paragraphs about the photographer and the subject. But the connection defies words, it is a visual bond, as fleeting as a momentary glance.

You might look at the two photographs and see no connection, in which case that is fine. Images are not like sentences : you don't have to read them in the right order, you don't have to accept rules of punctuation. You can fly free, allowing you mind to be held up by nothing more than a pair of imaginary braces.

You can see how other people interpreted this weeks' theme image by going to the Sepia Saturday Blog and following the various links.

23 comments:

  1. They certainly both present the look of hard-working, rather weary women, and of course they do have similar hairlines. I can see how your mind would recall the migrant mother.

    Has it been four years already?!

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    1. Indeed it has Kat. Four good years I think.

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  2. Remember when a year seemed like a lifetime?

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  3. I can certainly see the connection. It's a look I have often seen on photos of women raising families in London during the Blitz. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  4. How strange if they had borrowed some children just for a photograph! Perhaps they lived next door to them, assuming you're sure the little boy with head bowed is not you. Your uncle looks fairly grim and determined, as well as his wife.

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  5. You're right -- there is a similarity between those two women...or, perhaps, it's a subjective similarity: what's the same is what I feel when I look at them.

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  6. Perhaps the children belonged to the photographer. A spontaneous go sit with Mr. "Uncle John" and I'll take your picture. The baby is wary and the little boy reluctant.

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  7. The triangular arrangement of John, Doris, and the children also makes the photo a strong image, much like the lines in "Migrant Mother". The other photos that Dorothea Lang took of the same mother and children are also quite similar. They date from 1936. Would that be the era of your photo, Alan?

    Check out:
    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/fsa.8b29523/

    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/fsa.8b29525/

    http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/fsa.8b29527/

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  8. There is a hint of a smile on your Aunt's face but the other face holds no smile whatsoever...just hopelessness.

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  9. Uncle John's smile looks a bit uneasy as well - perhaps because he wasn't used to holding a small child? I rather suspect the sun might have been causing them both to frown a bit? Still, there is a resemblance between the two women no matter what brought the similar expressions to their faces.

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  10. What a mysterious photo. I want to know what is written on the plate on the door behind them. No junk mail?

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  11. I guess they were looking after them for the day, perhaps neighbours or relatives, friends, many possibilities. The second pictures is rather disturbing, as the woman has a worried look and her children are leaning in to her and hiding. For many life was great hardship.

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  12. Yes they both seem to be far away in their thoughts? Perhaps wishful for a better future?

    I love Sepia Saturday. I may not always have time to post but I love that the pictures prompt me to write(and research) about something that I may not have otherwise.

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  13. There seems a slight sadness and holding back of the women in the first photo .... It was always the women's fault in those days if a couple could not have children ... Many women carried this burden with a heavy heart
    Jackie
    Scrapbangwallop

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  14. Auntie Doris has the nose of Florence Owens Thompson, and Uncle John has Thompson's chin.

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  15. "Images are not like sentences : you don't have to read them in the right order, you don't have to accept rules of punctuation. You can fly free, allowing you mind to be held up by nothing more than a pair of imaginary braces."
    That's almost poetry Alan.

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  16. On the other hand Auntie Doris is probably older the migrant lady, but looks younger. The migrant was only 32 years old.

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  17. Perhaps someone left the two children on their doorstep and they were flumoxed before the long lost cousin stepped around the corner of the house, laughing and admitting to setting the whole thing up because they knew Aunt Doris would never turn away a child. Uncle John, on the other hand, was just on the point of calling the authorities.

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  18. A couple of observations: Your uncle looks a lot like your father and the baby reminds me of photos of you as a youngster. Must not be, though, or you would recognize yourself, I'm sure. I can see how you would think of the Lang photo when looking at your aunt but I think your aunt's mouth hints at a smile.

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  19. I agree, I think Auntie Doris has a hint of a wry smile - perhaps she is amused that Uncle John is holding a baby!

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  20. It's amazing, how Sepia Saturday is still just bursting after all this time, the themes are great too, when one runs out of ideas, but I enjoy the themes because they have pushed me into avenues I may not have ever gone, and I would have missed out! Your last photo is one I know well, what powerful emotion the photographer caught.

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  21. Yes, the two women seem to be contemplating their situations in their lives. Auntie Doris seems a bit happier about it.

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  22. I get the analogy, but yours seems less desperate.
    In the "migrant mother" with the children looking away
    instead of being happy and curious, reeks of sadness.
    Yours shows only two kids who need a nap, no more.
    Funny how they borrowed kids for the occasion, as you put it.
    Possibly visiting relatives with their progeniture...
    :D~
    HUGZ

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