5/11/09

HAUNTED and away


I've been away. Up in the Gold Country. Unless you live near Northern California I'm not sure what Gold Country would mean to you. To me it's a series of small towns along Route 49 and part of the grand history of this state. Wonderful little towns that right now are having a tough time. They could definitely use an infusion of gold about now.

I stayed on the outskirts of Angel's Camp, home of the frog jumping contest made famous in Mark Twain's "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." It was there that I found this, and a few other photos, in an antique store. I have no idea where this was taken. All of the other photos I purchased had photographer inscriptions, but this...nada.

haunted_tatteredandlost
Click on image to see it larger.

My first reaction to the photo was that she looked like an actress from a silent movie. The poor woman about to be thrown out of her home by a "Snidely Whiplash" character. If you don't know who Snidely is think dastardly melodrama villain who would gladly throw a poor woman out in the cold in order to collect his rent money. Sort of like banks doing foreclosures today, except the banker would be wearing a top hat and black cape while twirling his handlebar mustache.

My second, and more lasting reaction, is how haunted she looks. That's what has passed down through time for me. I have been reading the beautifully written "The Outlander" by Gil Adamson and this woman reminds me of the main character in the book, a widow haunted by her past. For now I can't look at this photo without tying it to the book.

Then again, for some unknown reason, I'm fascinated by the screen door and that step with the nearly identical one in the background. I'd like to know where this was taken and to get a glimpse of what is behind the screen door. I'm fascinated with this moment and can almost hear the photographer telling her to stand perfectly still. In the next moment did she flash a smile before returning to the rooms behind the door? Her stare haunts me.

20 comments:

  1. Possibly a prostitute, as they were known to live in row houses such as this near the mining towns, and were provided to bring in the male population...I have studied...nice!

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  2. Yes! Those eyes! I'm certainly picking up those same vibes.

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  3. I have so many old photos of women that have incredible eyes. None of them enhanced by makeup. Always looking deep set and haunting.

    And yeah, prostitute idea crossed my mind only because of row "house" look and where I bought it. But I have no idea where it was taken or how it ended up in this little mining town. She looks a bit to prim to have been a pro. But could be. And she might have been a very funny woman with a great sense of humor who lived a very hard life. We just never will get to know so we can spin wonderful stories. That's an aspect of fun with these old photos. We can cast our own imaginary films with these "characters."

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  4. Anonymous5/12/2009

    She reminds me of the actress Patricia Neal.

    dia

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  5. Dia, you're right. There is a Patricia Neal vibe going on. And that wonderful smokey voice would only add to this picture.

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  6. Came here from Willow Manor. What a great post.

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  7. Thank you David. There are always such nice people at the Manor...but I get the last piece of pie. No two ways about it. That's my fork sticking in it laying claim!

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  8. I share the same fascination with old photos - no need to know who the sitter was, thay are gems in their own right, little windows into the past...

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  9. She looks to me as if she is impatient for the photographer to finish, as if she has no time for such foolish things. A serious woman with much to think about and probably not a great deal to be joyous about. Great photograph, xv.

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  10. Although standing unnaturally still, this woman steps across time as an authentic person,, not the characterless mannequin most people were reduced to by the stiff photography technology of the day.

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  11. she does have a penetrating gaze. old pictures llike this certainly stimulate my imagination too. congrats on POTD.

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  12. Wonderful post! I'm inclined to go with 'she had a hard life' as opposed to prostitute, but that's me.
    Congrats on POTD from David!

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  13. Haunted eyes indeed! Love the photo; and rather than wonder what she DID, I wonder what her name was; did she have children, a husband... or was alone in the world? She looks sad and tattered, both physically and emotionally, to me.

    Congrats on your POTD! So nice to have come here for the first time... it won't be my last!

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  14. Hi, I'm over from David's authorblog. Congrats on the Post of the Day Award!

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  15. Anonymity no more! Oh now I have to watch my "P's" and "Q's" with a vengeance. Worry about my grammar and punctuation. I put no pressure on myself for never attaining perfection. Let's just say I was stunned to have so many comments this morning, a morning in which I was not looking forward to sitting at this infernal machine all day. You all made it a big smile morn. Thank you! And thank you to David from authorblog. I'll say it again, you meet such nice people at the Manor.

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  16. Congratulations. I came in from David's post as I admire the people he selects for his POD's. The woman is annoyed at the photographer. She is hiding something or wants to kick his rear for having cheated her.

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  17. You're right, she looks incredibly haunted by a past, one the rest of us will never know.

    CJ xx

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  18. I can see Patricia Neal. She does not look happy. My dad used to live in Grass Valley, so I'm familiar with Gold Country.

    Congrats on you POTD! Isn't David something? I would have never visited otherwise.

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  19. Thank you to all who dropped by today. Quite a pleasure.

    I now have many new sites to visit in return.

    And Elizabeth, I have family in Grass Valley. A wonderful little town. The Gold Country is a wonderful place to visit.

    Let's hope this woman in the photo, who brought us together today, had good days and this haunting stare was only momentary for an annoyingly chipper photographer.

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  20. Here from POTD. Very thoughtful post and it is a haunting scene when one really takes the time to look as you have done so well.

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