About

Hello, and thank you for visiting my little corner of cyberspace.

I have always loved looking at photos, especially photos of people.  I find myself especially engaged by very old photos, and photos of people I don’t know.   (I say that, of course, with all due respect to my friends and family, whose photos I treasure.)   I look at old photos of people I don’t know and wonder who they were, what they were like, what their lives were like, etc., and I ponder how things have changed (or not changed).  Photography has been described as the art of taking things out of context, so I have to wonder how much of what I get out of a photograph is what I put into it (projecting my own personality and values onto it).  I find the whole process of looking at photos to be fascinating, entertaining, and sometimes moving.

As my finances permit (or my self-control fails), I buy old photos (eBay, antique stores, etc. – I have also received a few as gifts).  I have hundreds now.  Mostly cabinet cards, real photo postcards, vintage studio portraits, and snapshots.  (I have just a couple of tintypes and about eight or nine ambrotypes.)  They are mostly random, assorted photos, though some are related, and I even have a few photo albums.  There are some rather new ones, but most are pre-1940, with many from the 1800s.  This is not a precious collection full of valuable Stieglitz prints or museum quality daguerreotypes.  I’m not expecting one of my photos to turn out to be an undiscovered Walker Evans or August Sander.   Many are rather damaged.  But I don’t care.   I’m not a dealer, these aren’t a financial investment for me, and I’m not looking to sell them.  It’s just that I see all these faces staring back at me across time and I can’t help but be caught up in the interplay.

Sadly, they have just been sitting around in boxes and albums lately, and I felt it was a shame that nobody was looking at them (including me).  So I thought I would share.  Put them out there for others to enjoy, if other such people are out there.   If anybody else is captivated by any of these images, it will have been worth the effort.   I’ll try putting at least one a day online, labeling them as thoroughly as I can without guessing (I’m not an expert in things like guessing the dates), and mixing up the subject matter and time periods to keep it from getting too monotonous.  This is my first such venture, and it’s definitely a work in progress.  Feel free to comment!  I’d love to hear your reactions to these images.

In the best possible world, these photos could help a costume designer, or fill a gap in somebody’s genealogy research, or something along those lines.  But I’d be happy just to know that other people found looking at these images to be interesting and enjoyable.  Thanks!

P.S.  I feel I should point out that I’m someone who lives firmly in the present.  I don’t look longingly at these photos, wishing for a return to some mythological “good ol’ days”.  In fact, looking at these old photos sometimes reinforces my gratitude for the progress the world has made in the intervening years.

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73 comments on “About”

  1. You blog is a very cool idea 🙂 Old photos are amazing to me. Not just the print tech but the people and clothes as well. It is cool that you are digitizing them for everyone.

    • Thanks, Charlie! I find old photos fascinating for the same reasons, and I’m really glad I’ve found this way to share mine with other interested people. Thanks for letting me know you enjoy them.

  2. I enjoy your blog very much and will be checking back. I also added you to my blogroll to share your site!

    • Thank you for the feedback. I’m always glad to hear that people are enjoying this little project of mine. I’ve been enjoying your blog, too. And thank you so much for adding me to your blog roll! I certainly wouldn’t object to a wider audience! 🙂

  3. I’m thrilled to find you and your photos! Thanks so much for going to the time and trouble to collect and post them. I share the same fascination but with a focus on dogs. The old fashioned farm collie is of special interest. I love trying to piece together the lives of the families who stand by their dogs on windy prairies and empty streets. I look forward to following your blog!
    Laurie

    • Thank you, Laurie! It’s always rewarding to hear that others enjoy my interests and efforts. I’m sorry I don’t have a ton of dog pictures, mostly old snapshots rather than nice portraits, but I’ll keep an eye out and post more down the road. Thanks for letting me know what particularly interests you.

  4. Love your site! I too love to collect vintage photographs, and love to make up my own stories and histories for the people in them. I think its so important to share these historical artefacts, thanks!

  5. Just a comment on Miss Shea, posted today–12/2/11. I am so enjoying your posts and photos, because I am spending so much spare time right now scanning in my own collection of photos. The photo with hte grocery list on it, that you refer to, sounds fascinating, I’d love to see a scan of hte grocery list!! Many times I scan the back of the photo, if there is anything worth looking at, whether a photographer’s design or hand-written info. One of my photos has a long list of the couple’s descendants listed with dates married and deceased. Provenance is everything. Thanks for the daily fun! Yours in costuming,Lisa A

    • Thank you, Lisa! I’m really glad to hear you’re enjoying my posts! And thanks for the suggestion. I’ve considered scanning the backs of some of my photos, but haven’t done so yet for a couple reasons, mostly because the WordPress template I’m using only allows one photo per post, and I don’t have the skills to combine front and back images into one document, on top of which that might make all the elements too small. Also, unlike you, I haven’t been engaged in a scanning project beyond the daily scan for each post. (Perhaps it’s a project I should pursue? I’m curious to hear more about your project, and I hope you’re enjoying it.) I try to list any relevant information in my posts, but you’re right, sometimes things like the photographer’s logos can be interesting to see. As my blog evolves, it may be something that I decide to try down the road, and I appreciate knowing that it would interest you. By the way, the grocery list isn’t all that interesting, just a list of items we would buy today, without quantities or prices or anything. I was mostly just amused to find it there at all. 🙂

    • Charlie! Thank you so much! It means a lot to me that you enjoy my blog, especially since I admire yours, too. I’ll have to look into this. I saw your post. I have to admit I’m new enough at this that I don’t even have fifteen blogs that I’m following yet! 🙂

  6. Hey Matt…. have a great holiday season!

  7. Hey Matt! When photographers shot post mortem subjects in the Victorian era did they use stands to prop the person up? I’m in a debate about this with another blogger over the subject matter of a few shots. Here is the link and let me know what you think. http://ridiculouslyinteresting.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/hidden-mothers-in-victorian-portraits/
    I know vintage photography is one of your interests and I instantly thought of you!

    • Hey Chris, thanks for thinking of me! I’m definitely not an expert, just an interested hobbyist, but I can try to answer. Stands were definitely used to hold living people still during long exposure times, so it makes sense that they might be used to prop up dead people, too. That’s a fascinating page you linked, and I’ll comment there shortly, too.

      • I have read that memento mori photos did use stands and clamps, etc, if the subject were not going to be posed with family members. Yikes! I saw a photo of two parents holding their deceased teen daughter, though I cannot remember now what site it was. Basically as I understand it, once rigor passed, the photographer was able to more easily pose the subject. Infants were often placed in carriages or cradles, on pillows etc.

      • Thanks for your comment! It makes sense that they would use stands and clamps, I just didn’t know for sure one way or the other, so I appreciate the information. And thanks for reminding me that rigor mortis can start to wear off after as little as twelve hours. (I read enough mystery stories, you’d think I might have remembered that.) That would certainly affect the arrangement of a photograph. By the way, I remember seeing the photo you mentioned, with the deceased teenage girl and her parents. It’s quite haunting.

  8. Such an interesting endeavor, Matt! I’ll keep my eyes open for photos to add to your collection.

  9. I have been meaning to stop by and thank you for your great comments, and what a delight to find you not only share my interest in the old photos, but you have a site too!! Fabulous!

    • And thank you! I’ve been enjoying your site, too. Thank goodness for the way the internet allows us to share our interests and hobbies with each other.

  10. The more I look at your blog, the more I am interested by what I see. It is just as much about what isn’t in the photo, as what is. Very nice collection.

    • Thanks, I really appreciate that. While staring at photos is always a fascinating activity, I think looking at old ones is even more interesting, because they can feel so foreign, and because it requires more guesswork to try to flesh out the image’s context in our minds.

  11. Matt, I’m subscribed, and every time a post arrives I misread the URL as Pic Soft Hen. So I hope, some day, you get a Nineteenth Century chicken photo. I’ll keep my eyes open for ya.

    • That crossed my mind as I picked the name, too. I do have a couple of snapshots that include hens in a barnyard. They aren’t particularly special photos, and they aren’t as old as 19th Century, but maybe just for you I’ll post them sometime. 🙂

  12. Hi Matt, Thanks for following my blog. I really love your collection and that you are sharing it online. You have some really interesting and special photographs here. Cheers Kirsty

  13. I’m not sure why your blog showed up in the blogs I follow since I haven’t ran across your blog before today, but I’m glad it did. Awesome photos! I love to look at photos of all types and this is a fantastic vintage collection. I look forward to seeing more!

  14. ALL BRILLIANT PHOTOS. Would it be ok to use some in a video installation im doing?

  15. Hello friend, if you want to know more about me, you should follow me in this new WordPress.
    Greetings from the moon.

  16. Hey Matt, is there a guide that you know of online that outlines the different phases of photography? Meaning the length of tintype which would be followed by (Blah) from time period (blah-blah). Thanks man!

    • Hey Chris, I don’t know of a single comprehensive online source for all that sort of information, though I could easily have overlooked something. Usually when I have a question, I just Google it (“tintype process”, “cabinet card sizes”, “dating real photo postcards”, etc.) and look at two or three different sites, comparing the information I find to get a consensus. I’ve found useful information on basic reference sites like Wikipedia. There are hobbyists and other bloggers who post useful information. Photographic societies, postcard collector’s groups, etc., post information online. Manufacturers like Kodak post information about their historical products. And genealogy websites often have useful information about things like deciphering antique handwriting on your photos. Perhaps another reader here will have other suggestions?

  17. Hi Matt, great blog.

    I approaching collecting in a similar way to yourself, I just buy what catches my eye.

    Thank you for sharing your collection.

  18. I really like your blog. I know lot of people out there are trying to figure it out who were they and how they related to them. Thank god, my mother gave me the photo of my great-grandfather. Photographer was C. Kneeland. I finally to keep it and carry it on to the next generation. Its like a treasure. Its quite fascinating to see all details. clothes, furniture, and appearance. Its very nice to collect all old antique pictures and show them. Thank you.

    • Thank you, Joseph! I’m so glad you like my blog. I hope you’ll continue to enjoy it. It’s wonderful that you have that photo of your great-grandfather to treasure and pass on. I know others will appreciate it, too. I always feel these old photos are fascinating regardless of whether or not you know the subject, but when there’s a personal connection, as with you and the photo of your great-grandfather, that makes it all the more special.

  19. I love collecting old photographs, and trying to research them as much as possible. Your blog has inspired me to get my CDV and Cabinet Card collection out of their box and onto my blog – Thanks!

    • Thank you, Sarah! I’m so happy to know that my blog has inspired you. Thanks for letting me know. I’m glad to be able to give these old photos a bit of a life outside the storage boxes, and it’s nice to know that somebody else understands what I mean. 🙂

  20. wonderfull to find your blog. I a photografin and want to take pictures who have the same mood als these old ones. Yet without any photoshopping and with my new camera. Now I have a chance to examine the style and what it takes to get that mood

    • Thank you so much! All I’ve done here is buy and display these photos. I can’t take any more credit for them than that. But I’m glad you find them inspiring. I hope you find them useful as you examine vintage techniques and styles, and I hope you continue to simply enjoy them. 🙂

  21. What a fabulous site! Thanks for sharing both your fantastic insights (love what you wrote above), and for some really interesting pictures.

  22. Love your collection. So many beautiful photographs.
    Do you have a picture of a baby on fur/sheepskin? ( they where the real trend many years ago yet I can’t find them on the internet )

    • Thanks for following my blog! I’m so glad you enjoy the pictures. That’s why I do it, so others can enjoy them, too. I have a lot of baby pictures, but I don’t remember offhand if I have any on fur/sheepskin. I’ll take a look, and post it if I do.

  23. Greetings from Australia,
    I absolutely love what you’re doing. There is something beautiful about old photos; I think it’s the dignity and courage that people manifested regardless of whatever hardships the experienced. This in turn produced a spirit of gratitude. Thanks for publishing these beautiful photographs

    God bless

  24. I love your pictures. I have several pictures for my family, but wish of course that I had more. I can live somewhat vicariously through the pictures you post on your blog. Keep ‘um coming!

    • Well, none of the photos on my blog is from my own family (as far as I know). They are just ones I buy from places like eBay or get from other sources. So I live just as vicariously through them as you do. 🙂 Thanks for letting me know you like them.

  25. uh…oh….I see your last comment was back in 2013….just clicked on a link and found your site….I wish I could do this with someone…..I love solving the mysteries….a fan in Pennsylvania

    • Hi Barb. Thanks for visiting my blog! I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it. Yes, between my own burn-out of posting every day for two years, and technical issues (old scanner not compatible with old computer), it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. But I still get page views every day, and I still have more photos to post eventually, so I keep it up and ready for visitors. I do still find it fun to explore the mysteries of these old images, and I’m glad you do, too.

  26. Funny thing, just a few days ago I was perusing through an antique store and stumbled upon several old photos. I wondered to myself if anyone collected them. (It stirred my imagination just looking at them!) And lo and behold I find your blog! I’m happy to find out that there is someone who cares about old photos. I look forward to more posts!

    • Hi Kate, I’m glad you stumbled upon my blog! Yes, quite a few people collect old photos. Some focus on specific subjects or eras or types of photos, others are more general. Some people have put together some seriously impressive collections, and if you look around, you’ll find plenty of other blogs showcasing them. Meanwhile, thanks for visiting, and I hope you find some photos here that you enjoy looking at.

  27. Hey, Matt. Feel free to delete this comment, but I saw this project and thought of you. http://www.boredpanda.com/refreshing-old-pictures-with-drawings-from-kids/
    xoxo
    —C

    • What fun! The archivist in me shudders at any damage to the original works, but otherwise it’s an amusing project.

      • Agreed…I’m horrified at the thought that they might have affixed the art to the photos. I’m hoping not. But I skimmed his methodology in the interest of my own entertainment.

  28. I was looking for information on the time frame that McAdam took pictures in Fowler Indiana and ran across this website. I opened it and it showed a wedding picture taken by McAdam. Can you tell me who is in this picture? I have this picture in my great, great, grandmothers photo book I know it is family but don’t know who it is just yet. If you don’t know who it is, can you tell me more about where it came from and how you happen to have it. Very interesting that I see a picture that I have. All the pictures I have in these two photo books are unnamed. I just know they are family I have over half of them identified but not this one.

    • Hi there! Thanks for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment. Unfortunately, I have no information about the photo beyond what I posted. If there had been names written on the back, or if it had come from some larger family album, I would have mentioned that. Most of the photos on my blog are ones I purchased as loose, individual photos from second-hand dealers on places like eBay. Most were purchased about fifteen years ago, and after so many years, I have no record of who sold them to me. While I can often figure out a connection between ones sold to me in bunches, that wasn’t the case with this one. I’m sorry I’m not able to be more helpful with this photo, but it’s fun to know that there is another copy out there. If you find out any information, I’d love to know it. I think you are the first person to say they have a personal connection to somebody pictured in my photos.


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