WHY SO GLUM, part 1

We know our ancestors were not as glum as they look in photographs. So few smiles show up in early portraits. Everyone looks stiff and a little melancholy. Sometimes it's hard to look at these old shots and not see them as actors. I have to focus on the faces to imagine them coming alive. I like to imagine the moment before and after the shot. Were they like me muttering, "I don't want my picture taken" or did they find it great fun? Did they break out in laughter as soon as the photographer said, "Thank you!" I think this is why I usually don't buy old studio portraits. They're a dime a dozen, okay a buck a piece, but too often they're just boring. I really don't see the person. Too formal. It's the good ones where something went a little bit wrong that appeal to me. I'm thinking back about little Grace with her finger up her nose in the family portrait. Without that one little problem they'd just look like a boring bunch of people in front of a house. Grace gives it life.

why so glum_pt 1_tatteredandlost
Click on image to see it larger.

I have no idea who these two women are or their relationship. Family or friends. It's a real photo post card with nothing written on the back bought at an estate sale. Most of the shots were, I believe, from Nebraska. They look like cardboard cut-outs. No life to them. Were they happy when they saw the shot? All unknown. Actors in life. What was their script?

UPDATE: Okay, I screwed up. There are names on the back of this card. These two ladies are Ida and Ethel Haswell in 1914. For some reason I was thinking the names were on the card I'll feature tomorrow.


  1. Here's my guess: mother and daughter. Mother is stern and has high expectations. Daughter is intellectual, but also feels inadequate. Still, there is a strong love on both sides.

  2. You know, it could be, but wait until you see tomorrow's photo. It might change our perspective.

  3. Sisters that is the vibe I get. They were so sad and glum looking for the long exposures it took to produce an image. I have often wondered what they said afterwards too..
    I find the posed photos very interesting for the clothing..and the wonder what happened to them?
    Do you have anyone that helps you research any of the names?
    I have two gals..they are fantastic at finding out info..it takes time:)

  4. I look online when I find a name, but have yet to find any history to go along with any photos. It's so rare anything is even written on the back. I figure they're all part of my extended family now. The part of the family nobody talks about.