Thursday, January 17, 2008

Edie And Mother

I remember saying some time ago, in relation to old picture postcards, that it was often the message on the back which was more interesting - and more instructive - than the picture on the front. Sometimes the same is true of old family photographs.

If anyone has ever undertaken the task of sorting, digitising and cataloguing family photographs (and if you haven't done it yet, you should do it now before it is too late), they will know the importance of those scribbled words on the back of a photograph : they are worth their weight in printing ink (if you have recently bought a new ink cartridge for your printer you will appreciate the scale of this claim). If you are the type of person who adds witty subtitles to your everyday snaps - power to your elbow. In a hundred years time someone will no doubt give thanks for your scrawling. The worry is, of course, that as fewer and fewer digital images are actually printed off, there is no canvass for such historical doodlers to perform on.

Anyway, the little photograph reproduced here was small, tatty, scratched and bent. Such imperfections can easily be overcome with the help of Photoshop. The real treasure, however, was the description on the reverse :

"10/8/47 : Edie and Mother. She wanted to get dressed up but we told her it didn't matter for snaps"

The Edie will be Isobel's mother Edith. The mother will be her mother-in-law, Sarah Shaw. The reporter, no doubt, will be Isobel's father Raymond. Small-scale social history at its best.


  1. Isobel to the life! That picture of her when she was little, with the ribbon in her hair...

  2. Yes, I agree. I was so taken by the resemblence as soon as it was scanned and enlarged that I immediately e-mailed her at work to point it out.


Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...