Sunday, April 06, 2008

Vintage Photo




Who is he and what was he thinking? It is so easy to make assumptions. He looks like any other young boy forced to endure a studio portrait. He is bored, tired, hot and hates the clothes he has to wear. Unlike the children in modern photographs , he is not told to say "cheese." He is expected to look serious so no one tries to divert him or make him laugh. Someone loved him once to make him sit through what was likely a costly session. Someone saved the photo over the years and did not allow it to be lost or destroyed. That someone is now long dead, as is, most likely, the boy. The photo passed from hand to hand until the last person who knew him was gone.
I imagine the photo placed in an old shoe box by someone clearing out an attic or basement or closet. The box is labeled "Lot 1--vintage photographs" with 30 other photos ranging from the pictures of the boy's next of kin to faded 60's snapshots from family vacations and weddings. Now all are a jumble in search of meaning.
An antique dealer picks up the photos for $5 for the lot. He prices them in pencil on the back and tosses them in a shoe box of his own.
Like the ragged teddy bear of some children's tale, he waits to be adopted. And along I come, curious or compulsive, and decide to rescue him. Why not own a small, meaningless piece of someone's history--what the thrift stores refer to as "instant relatives?" Perhaps the stranger's boy is more interesting than my mythical great-great uncle Elmer would have been.
Albert Einstein once said:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
I'd like to imagine that this child will live on in the imaginations of those who view his picture if not in the actual memories of his family. If nothing else, it is a nice thought.

5 comments:

Granny Smith said...

What a nice mystery! You can imagine a life for him can encompass any number of possibilities!

La Traductora said...

Sarala,
As always, your writing is so thoughtful. It reminds me that we keep living as long as the ones we love us are living, too. Then someone sees our picture . . .

Debo Blue said...

Maybe he is the grandfather of a famous poet or head of state.

I loved the writing for this piece.

Larry said...

That boy's name is Burton Collins.He opened the first prep school in Branston Missouri.

Rayne said...

I am sorry to hear of you computer problems and I hope the family situation is better.
I collect orphan photos. I feel so bad that they are no longer reguarded as special. I, too, wonder what went on behind the scenes.
The last one I found was in a second hand book I had bought. It showed an older teen girl looking out the kitchen window. The photographer was facing into the sun so the girl is dark while the rest of the photo is over exposed. It's beautiful and artsy and I wonder how it came to be stuffed in the book.