In which I am obsessed with old group photos

If you happen to follow my Flickr stream, or if you read this on and occasionally click one of the “Recent Photos” on the right-hand sidebar (which, yes, come from the very same Flickr stream), you will know that I am far more apt to take pictures of landscape, street art, and objects on offer at estate sales than I am of humans.

But if you were to visit my house, you would discover a quite different photographic aesthetic. I collect old group photos, each of which features multiple humans: a 1958 junior high school class, a 1904 Rebekahs assembly, 1921 and 1923 chiropodists’ association conferences. Most of the photos are too large to fit on the scanner, so I can’t show you the sullen girls whose expressions convinced me to begin the collection, or the Rebekah who bears an uncanny resemblance to John Darnielle in modest drag. But my most recent acquisition is 8 x 10:

Blood donors, 1940s

This is a group of blood donors, sometime during the Second World War. I scanned it at a high resolution, so if you click over to Flickr you can pick up details: the jaunty caps of the women holding the Honor Award banner; the leaf-pattern appliqués on the blouse of the woman who’s arm in arm with two other ladies, one with a dazzling smile, the other more subdued with arms folded across her chest; and the glass insulators on the telephone poles, some destined, perhaps, for the very estate sale where I bought the photo.

Do any of y’all share this obsession?

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  • K
    April 12, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    fyi, if you haven’t heard already, amazon is purging books with LGBT characters from their sales rankinngs.

  • Mim
    April 16, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I love this photo… You know I have a similar collection of old group photos… Started picking them up at estate sales, although unlike your own collection, I prefer groups of all men — cricket teams, lumberjacks, WPA artists, army units, etc. I think for me part of it is looking at all the young handsome faces of a group of young men, knowing they all turned into the grizzled old men — or dead guys — of my own time. Jarring and cool, to me.