Each week somebody brings writing prompt ideas to our writing group. This week the leader for the day brought some old photographs, including tintypes, her husband had collected to draw and paint from. It was an amazing collection.
He gathers them from antique and thrift stores. We've all seen them, those lost friends and relatives. Sometimes they have names and dates on them. If I were rich I would buy all the ones with identifying information and try to return them to their families.
There are even Web sites to post photos to help find their homes. One is Dead Fred.
Growing up, one of my favorite past times was to go through the suitcase of old photos. There are some great ones in there. Sadly many of them are not identified and try as I might I haven't found who these people are.
Here are some of them. I do believe this first one is a cousin of my great grandma's whose maiden name was Thompson. I can't be sure. Isn't it a great photo though?
This little girl looks like she is just waiting to get up to some mischief.
This man looks like he'd been working on the range.
This is another one I may know, another cousin my my great grandmother.
It has long been the notion that it was because of the long exposure times. That is certainly a factor. Even though it was down to about 15 seconds by this time; try holding a smile even for that long. My daughter had a tintype done with original equipment last year and she said it is nearly impossible.
The second factor is bad teeth. However, even people with good teeth didn't smile. And since so many did have bad teeth it wasn't really an issue. (You can smile without showing your teeth.)
The common theory now is that smiling just wasn't done. As Mark Twain once said, "A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever."
So there you have it. Why those people didn't smile.
Do you have unknown photographs in your family collections?
What stories could you write about them?
What stories do you see in the photos I have share in this post?