November 1, 2012

Photos to remember

It's remarkable how a few lines of description enliven a photograph and make it meaningful.  We all have thousands of photographs - digital and printed - that we've saved in photo boxes, albums, on CDs, online and in iPhoto.  Most of these will be lost and forgotten after we're gone, but those set aside with a line or two that lay bare the meaning that particular photo has for us  will likely last and be passed on.

I'm So Lonesome



I am so awful lonesome and I wish that you were here': Black and white pictures with notes by their owners give touching insight into the lives of past Americans

Author Ransom Riggs has sorted through thousands of photographs at flea markets to compile his book Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past

'I have an unusual hobby: I collect pictures of people I don't know,' explained Riggs.

But he admitted he has a particularly odd way of sifting through thousands of photographs he comes across in thrift shops and flea markets, as he does  not even look at the image on the front if the words scribbled on the back do not interest him.

'When you're looking through bins of thousands of random, unsorted photos, every hundredth one or so will have some writing on it,' he said.

'It's generally just identifying information ("me and Jerry at the Grand Canyon, 1947"), but every once in a while I'll find a something surprising, emotional, candid, hilarious, heartbreaking - a few words that bring the picture to life in a profound new way, transforming a blurry black-and-white snapshot of people who seem a million miles and a million years away into an intensely personal sliver of experience that anyone can relate to.

'It becomes something not just to look at, but to listen to.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at November 1, 2012 12:05 PM | Permalink