Thursday, March 26, 2009

When Words Matter

(click either image for larger view)
ONE OF THE REASONS SNAPSHOTS ARE SO FASCINATING is that they provide the best, most thorough documentation of our culture and way of life. Imagine this fact. In our past and recent 20th century, most homes in America had a camera at one time or another to record family events. The camera was brought out and used to record birthdays, weddings, babies, new cars, the new house, vacations, parades, all kinds of things—mostly happy events. The camera was also used (though less frequently) to record funerals and cemeteries, but not so often sad family events. Perhaps it was out of respect for privacy and respect that family members or neighbors did not intrude on others grief.

Which is why this snapshot is so important. In terms of history, young men leaving for war is a scene that is quite common—that moment when a young man learns he has been called and has three days to report for duty. But to have that moment captured on camera is ultra rare—that moment of clarity and shock and sadness of the reality of leaving loved ones. In fact, I cannot remember seeing a photo like this and I have looked at hundreds of thousands of snapshots.

This snapshot is WWII vintage, and it’s the words on the back of the picture that make this photograph so rare and special. Indeed, the picture of two lovers in passionate embrace is passionate and strong, but without the story on the verso—this image would not be as important. This photo sold last night for $124.00 by India Paper on eBay (part of Ampersand Vintage). I think the lucky buyer ended up with a really powerful image.

If you have any trouble reading the back of this photograph, I have transcribed it for you here:

“I had just phoned Chas. Rex that his papers had arrived and he had only three days left at home. One of Charleen’s friends had Chas. Rex’s camera and she caught them in their grief. If ever two kids hated to part they were them.”

Makes one wonder how the young man fared in the great war, and whether the lovers ever united again. It’s a beautiful documentary image.


CvD said...

Very powerful indeed. I'm lucky to have a collection of photos of my grandfather from his service in WWII. He was in the Navy and was at the invasion of Sicily. Throughout the war he would have a picture made of himself and write a little love note on the back and send it home to my grandmother. He was drafted a few weeks after their honeymoon and you can tell from his notes how madly in love they were.

Thanks for your provocative blog, John.

John Foster said...

If there are others with similar stories as CvD, please share!

Joey said...

Wow, what an awesome shot! I would have easily paid double for that image. Great purchase for the winner. Thanks for preserving it for the public.

Larry the Artist said...

Images like this truly are a "snap" shot of a moment caught in time. You couldn't have posed this and made it as believable.

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