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.