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.

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