Perhaps these two are the designated drivers for the evening enjoying a few moments of quiet and friendship. Or is the fellow on the left thinking "If I'd just gotten out of the office a little faster my boss wouldn't have been able to invite me to his home for a New Years Eve game of chess." No matter. It's that ridiculous day each year when we take stock of the previous year and promise to do better next year. And then January 2nd comes and we look in the mirror and think, "Where am I?"

Happy New Year!


TIN LIZZY feels dizzy

I can't decide exactly what to say about this shot so I'll put down all three that came to mind:
  1. Don't eat yellow snow because you never know how old it is.
  2. Always buy from a reputable dealer that includes side windows as a standard option.
  3. Go west young man, go west, or at least own a snowblower that can do this to your neighbor's car.
To those feeling the brunt of the winter's wetness I pass along my sympathy. Notice I didn't say empathy.



For those who have settled down to watch A Christmas Story for the umpteenth time I give you a slightly doctored photo of a street that would be happy to have a fragile leg lamp lit in a window and two little boys smelling of wet wool with dreams of Santa in their heads. 

Merry Christmas Past and Christmas Never Was.



Most children are in their pajamas by the time Santa rolls through. Most sound asleep. But not the "Polite Family" which regularly greets Santa in their Sunday finest. Each year hors d'oeuvres are served along with milk and cookies. Santa takes a breather as he sits on the sofa, snapshot taken, small talk made, while the reindeer pace the roof. The following week the little boy shows his friends the photo and each year some smart aleck neighbor kid always says, "Nah, that's just your Uncle Ed." I think the little girl might be starting to get suspicious.


MERRY CHRISTMAS grandma and grandpa

Usually in old found photos with children there's at least one child that is blurred. Blurred forever through time. Everyone else is posed stiffly, either smiling or looking somber. And then there's that one child who just wouldn't stand still. Here on the other hand it appears the photographer was a little tipsy with Christmas cheer and moved just enough to make the whole scene become a bit ghostly, even a little like a seance. Sweet little girls posed with their fun toys, their message to grandma and grandpa neatly printed on their chalkboard, and then ol' dad just couldn't keep it together. Let's hope he took a second that was in focus. I hate to think of the disappointment they all felt when the photo came back from being processed. Perhaps this is why this one was thrown away. Somewhere, somebody has one in focus.


SERIOUS about tinsel

Now this is a woman who is SERIOUS about tinsel! Saddleshoes on the chair, tinsel hanging like delicate silver chains in her hand, caught in the act. Was she home alone, hanging each strand, humming White Christmas? In her own little world, the zen of the tinsel. And then somebody comes in with flash blazing and documents the moment like a tabloid photographer. It is an odd picture. Not too odd. Just odd enough.

And about that painting hanging in the frame...no nudging necessary, though it seems a bit high on the wall. I'll leave it alone


DECK THE BALLS with howls of Molly

Hmmmmmmm...the picture is crooked on the wall. This is going to bug me. I want to straighten it. I'm one of those people. Nudging picture frames until they're just right. I need to forget about it. Focus on something else. Nice tree, hits the ceiling...but that frame...excuse me for a minute. And I'll try to not trip on the dog.


LEADED, not unleaded

A few years ago I found a box in the attic that contained the old fashioned leaded tinsel. Tinsel used on Christmas trees when I was a child. Another box contained the type of tinsel that followed in the 60s. The leaded was heavy and when it fell through the branches of the tree it made a noise. You knew tinsel had fallen. The later tinsel would move when you walked by the tree creating a breeze, but would rarely fall from its branches. The leaded just hung there. The Christmas tree in this found photo has leaded tinsel. It's heavy and lovely, each piece hung separately. You couldn't throw a wad of leaded onto a tree because it would usually fall through the branches, plus if it stuck it looked like a shiny birds nest. 

Do people still put tinsel on a tree? I haven't seen any in years. I don't think we have the time for tinsel anymore and that's a shame. Strand by strand, it takes time. I don't have the time.

Thank you to whoever took this photo because it brings back memories.



Now this is how to handle a meet-and-greet with Santa in the 1940s. Keep it moving, keep it organized, everybody goes home happy. I'm not sure what the fellow might be doing with the microphone. Announcing the names of the wee tots as they pass by? Singing Christmas carols ala Sinatra? Perhaps doing a stand-up bit popular with the under 7 crowd. I do believe it's the first time I've ever seen the elves dressing quite so corporate.


OUT-OF-PRINT, but worth the hunt

Prairie Fires and Paper Moons: The American Photographic Postcard: 1900-1920
 is a book I've had in my collection for a long time. Though out-of-print it can still be found at Amazon. If you have an interest in old photos, real photo postcards, Americana, you'll enjoy this book.

Originally published in 1981 by David R. Godine, Publisher; 191 pages + frontmatter. Sepia color photos throughout.

The text includes a foreword and introduction about real photo postcards along with 7 chapters: In the Photographer's Studio, At Home and at Play, At Work, At War, Outside the Law, Local Scenes and Events, Gala Occasions. There is also a 4 page appendix entitled Methods of Dating Photographic Postcards with illustrations of the various postal stamps.

I have posted a link in the left margin under Vernacular Photography Books Worth Owning. Unfortunately Amazon does not include a cover image so I have posted one here.



Looking for that perfect gift for those hard to buy people? How about "Happiness is a warm lamp" or "All I want for Christmas is a three way bulb"? Obviously these two were overwhelmed with joy at receiving these stunning table lamps, though it looks more like they were anniversary gifts. Still, think outside the box this year, or just give the box and keep the lamp yourself. The reaction to the empty box certainly won't be any worse than the reaction of these two. And if anyone can figure out the doors in the corner drop me a line. I'm completely baffled.


CHECK please!

If T. E. Lawrence and Charlie McCarthy had lunch which one would be the bigger tipper? Or would one leave a wooden nickel? I know I risk losing a lot of people under 30, or maybe even 40, by asking this question. Do I need to explain who I'm referring to? I fear I do, but I'm willing to go out on a limb and figure there are enough people out there to get this. Now the question is, can you find Charlie in this picture? How about T. E.? (Hint: they're cross-dressing). You just never know who you'll find sharing a meal in found photos.


WE'VE BEEN DOWN this road before

I don't know the story behind this shot, but it has a feeling of the labor camps in the Great Depression, the
Grapes of Wrath. Poorly made structures that families were forced to live in. Children that grew up to be part of a country that took on the worst the world had to offer and succeeded. 

I'd like to be able to say that this shot is of its time and the history of this sort of poverty is in the past. We know that's not true. I think of these girls as a reminder of the hidden poverty in this country today.

Give thanks for what you have and share what you don't need. 

Happy Thanksgiving.


NEWS or noise?

Is it possible to travel through time without denting every decade you go through? I'm not sure. But if this photo is any indication one person has managed to bounce around at least through the last four decades in clear sight, even leaving a rather pitiful dent in Al Capone's vault. Foxy devil that he is I think this might be evidence he was undercover at the turn of the last century or perhaps an underwear model for the Sears catalog? Let's just hope his penchant for drawing maps in the sand didn't occur during WWI . "Journalist" Gerald"o" Rivera..."celebrity time traveler"? Vernacular photography star.



One of the stranger aspects of collecting vernacular photos is when you stumble across one with a face you recognize. You know the person is not who you think they are. No, instead they're "time-traveling- celebrities." The people look so much like someone who is famous that you have to hit yourself upside your head to convince yourself they're not. 

I've seen some wonderful ones online at other sites that boggled my mind. A picture of Bing Crosby holding up a pair of tiddy whities perhaps dreaming of a White Christmas? Jerry Mathers, "The Beaver", as a little boy sitting between two little girls somewhere around 1910? Of course I don't have permission to post these, but I have a few of my own.

My best friend and I are convinced we've tapped into an aspect of the universe unknown by all but celebrities. Yes, it's just as you imagined, they are different than us. We lowly mortals are stuck in our day-to-day lives while celebrities are not only jetting around the world to fabulous locations, they're also going back in time. I don't think they do it to mess with our minds. They might even be shocked to find out that evidence exists. My proof? Well...

MY THESIS Bourne Out

Imagine yourself in a college dorm, maybe an Ivy League school, back in the 1950s. You've got a new friend from your literature class dropping by later in the evening who wants to go out to a coffee house to listen to a little bit of finger snapping poetry. You've got a Miles Davis album playing while you fiddle with the new camera your folks sent you for your birthday. There's a knock on your door and you decide to surprise your friend by taking his picture. You my friend have just stepped through the "time-traveling- celebrity black hole." Now you might not see it, but I have to wonder what Matt Damon was doing in the 1950s before he was even born (Bourne?).

NOT convinced?

Okay, I can see you're going to be a tough nut to crack.

It's the 1940s and you got a nice Kodak Brownie camera for Christmas. You've convinced the new girl in the neighborhood to let you take her picture. She's the sweetest most graceful 12 year old girl you've ever met, but she's told you she'll only be living there for a little while. Now all you've got left is this little snapshot until you turn on your tv in the 1990s and see the new show Will and Grace. Hmm...could it be? Debra, is that you? Are you just messing with my mind? I submit as evidence...Debra Messing, "time- traveling celebrity."


I'll make this one easy. Too easy. I won't even give you a scenario other than it's the 1970s and you're probably in Palm Springs at a golf course. Luck be a lady tonight because you just hit the jackpot. Old Blue Eyes is walking right towards you dressed head to toe in purple. Yup, this one is real. Frank Sinatra in 1972.


VERNACULAR PHOTOGRAPHY: Or how I ended up with a box full of photos of people I don't know

I have a passion for old paper. I like the texture, the inks, the visual age showing through. And I especially like to think of the attached history. Many hands before mine have touched the object and if it survives perhaps many more in the future will gain pleasure from it. 

The word most often attached by collectors is ephemera. Say that to someone without the passion and you get a blank stare or "What's that?" And when you try to explain what it is you often end up giving up because the people just think you're crazy about junk. Maybe I am. But as the old saying goes "One man's junk is another man's treasure." And I do love to go on treasure hunts.

This blog is about old photos, known by the museum crowd as vernacular photography. I think that gives dignity to the old snapshots nobody wants. Vernacular photography. To many they're just those snapshots of strangers that get trashed when you're sorting through old paper. "Hey honey, do you know who this is?" "Nope, throw it out." And so it goes. Their trash, my treasure.


I've worked in publishing for a very long time. I never imagined there'd be something as marvelous as POD (print on demand). It's vanity publishing on the smallest scale. One book. That's all there needs to be, just one book. And then maybe two, or three, or.... 

I've decided to use this wonderful printing technology to catalog some of my photo collection. My intention is to put together small volumes, maybe three or four a year. With each new photo I acquire I remember one already in my collection that is similar, complimentary, or a complete opposite. When the photos are on facing pages they play off each other, each story slightly enriched. 

Tattered and Lost: Volume 1 is now available for sale at blurb.com. I put it together for myself and my friends who share my passion. If you take a look (a link is on the left side of the page) drop me a line and let me know what you think at tatteredandlost@gmail.com.

I'll never know the stories behind any of these photos and maybe that's a good thing. They aren't like family photos. These people will always remain strangers, the stories behind these moments always a mystery. But really, if you have a good imagination you'll quickly put your own spin on what you see and that's part of the fun.  

MERRY CHRISTMAS or maybe not

Christmas is the perfect time to drag out your camera and document your holiday for future generations. Just remember, someday that photo might end up in a flea market where your reality ceases to exist.

One of the joys of finding these sort of photos is suddenly discovering details that at first glance were missed. For example, at first I didn't notice the gun next to the boy on the right. Adding that little visual changed my whole perception of the photo.

Or a new take on the family Christmas photo card that veers into the realm of the boastfulnes of holiday newsletters. I can't quite wrap my head around what these people were thinking.

I find photos of Christmas trees, sans people, quite poignant. 

THESE TWO started it

Here are the first two photographs that started my collecting. I bought these a very long time ago in an antique store in the Sierra foothills. I think I paid 50 cents or a dollar each. I know it wasn't much. I've always wondered how these two ended up in an historic California gold mining town.