Saturday, July 10, 2010

Just Look at the Camera and Smile!

Little ones are sometimes so hard to photograph. People looking through boxes just aren't as interesting as the grass, her dress, his shoe, the girl behind, etc. And, oh, the sun hurts my eyes. These two photographs both made me chuckle.

In the top photo my mother, Audrey, is kneeling in the middle with the dark belt around her waist. I believe that her next younger sister, Geraldine, is sitting in front on the left of the photograph, and I think "Baby Girl" is the little towhead in the front with her face down. Those babies and toddlers are very busy characters, not the least interested in looking at the camera. And then there's the boy in back, mouth wide open. You have to wonder if he's a jokester or a tease.

The photo on the bottom seems to have been taken a few years later because it looks to me like "Baby Girl" is the little towhead in the center of the group, a few years older than in the top photo. Is the boy in front pointing to encourage the others to look at the camera, or does he see something else exciting?

Is it just me or do you, too, think that the faces children of 100 years ago look different than the faces of children of today? Is it the hairstyles or that the photos are black and white? To me there's just a difference.

I think both of these photos were taken at the home of Edward Jesse and Mary (Thompson) Bickerstaff of Mineral Ridge, Ohio. E.J. and Mary were my mom's grandparents. The house in the background of the photo on the left appears over and over again in photographs of the time period.

About old photographs, Kate Morton wrote in The House at Riverton,
It is a cruel, ironical art, photography. The dragging of captured moments into the future; moments that should have been allowed to evaporate with the past; should exist only in memories, glimpsed through the fog of events that came after. Photographs force us to see people before their future weighed them down, before they knew their endings.
Perhaps my mother or some others in these photographs would agree with Kate Morton. As for me, I'm grateful to be able to glimpse moments in time - to see my aunt as a busy infant, my mom as an interested and attentive youth, to see that across the span of a hundred years, children behave in similar ways. How about you? What do you think?

This post is a participant in this week's Sepia Saturday
, along with lots of others. I encourage you to enjoy their photographs and stories, too.


  1. Really love that second one. They look like they could be direct from the Our Gang series. Always so much fun to see kids being kids in photos.

  2. The photos confirm that children across the span of generations and eras are hard to photograph because of their business. I agree, could be the kids in Our gang. Must have been a family gathering, picnic, or?

  3. These were delightful! Both of them are so full of little mannerisms and expressions; they really seem like a fun bunch of kids who were free to be themselves. I have a photo of a portion of my father's family with his mother and 5 of the 12 kids standing on a stair in a backstreet in Belfast and they all look so disciplined and straight-laced. (I still love the photo, mind you.)

    You're right; it's so nice to have these photos to see what our parents and kin were like before the adult world changed them.


  4. Fun photos! Is the little boy in the first picture with his mouth open the same boy in the second photo who is pointing? I really like that quote by Kate Morton. I also think that children in past photos look different than children today, but I don't know what it is...

  5. I love to look at old photography and also enjoy the stories about the individual people's lifes. I appreciate your pictures and stories.
    I will post later pictures of my dad's adult life.
    He was born in Switzerland. The picture was taken on his parents farm where later his youngest brother lived with his family. I visited often and loved to be there. Near the family house they had a huge old wooden house nobody lived in it, we children used to play in it. I always thought of it as the ole house of Rocky docky!
    My father was the second child, there were 2 boys and 2 girls. His father was born in 1868 and his name was Emile. His mother was Maria Berta and she was the second wife, she was divorced, which was not so usual as it is today.
    She was born in 1869.

  6. I agree, hindsight & photography make for a strange combination.
    You say people look different?Yes,but I m not sure what this is.Is it that "attitude" is different?in the past was there A certain diffident & respect for The Camera we dont posses today?
    .Everything is so instant & fleeting these days.we pay the camera little respect.whereas, maybe in the past, folk actually respected the photograph as a permanent marker?
    Great Photos Nancy.I especially like the lad who is pointing at us!

  7. loving the MORTON's quote.
    a century ago, people lived in an era with a different mentality, reflecting i guess on their behavior and lifestyle. also, they had just gone through WW1, and the great depression was coming...
    it is refreshing to see kids just being themselves, no matter what happens in life. they lose that innocence much too quickly, especially today. one wonders if today's kids have any?!?...


  8. How interesting. And the Kate Morton quote which I am ambivalent about. I rejoice that such moments were recorded because they tell us something about the past which otherwise would go unrecorded in the carefully considered histories that were written for future consumption. Wonderful photo and a thought-provoking post.

  9. Thanks, all, for your comments.

    Tattered and Lost and Pat in MN, I hadn't thought of Our Gang before, but yes, I can see that gang in this "gang."

    Poetikat, I have some stiff, formal photographs, too. I love both kinds, the formal and the unposed, for different reasons. I think the formal tells us a bit more about appearance, the informal, more about personality.

    Natasha, I don't think they are the same boy but they could be. I think the 2nd photo was taken later, in which case the boy in the first would be older in the 2nd. But since I don't have dates, they could be the same.

    Titiana - I love the stories about our ancestors' lives, too. I just wish I had more of them. Thanks for sharing the information about your family.

    Tony, I don't know what the difference in appearance is either. I like your idea that in years past people thought of a photograph as a marker, possibly because photographs were so much less common than they are now. What will people do with all the photographs they take nowadays? Two hundred of newborn Babe before she's a month old? I've heard it said that several are treasures, hundreds are clutter.

    Ticklebear - thanks for sharing your perspective about people of a different era. I have a photograph of my mother's class taken the year before the Great Depression in the U.S. and I think to myself, they didn't know what was coming.... Neither do we, I guess. It is fun to see the innocence of the children in these two photos.

    Alan, I'm not sure I agree with Kate Morton's quote, either. Like you, I'm thrilled to have photographs of family from earlier times - formal and informal both show different aspects of the person photographed. Photos of family (both those we know and those who died before we met them) help personalize those carefully written histories you mention. And it's wonderful to see youthful photos taken "before their future weighed them down." Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  10. Faces of people in whatever time show their souls and their true grit. I love them.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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