I love photographs, the sharpness of the images, and the memories they can evoke from the time they were taken. Photos capture a pictorial history of how things were at that moment. So often, events in our life flash by too quickly but with photos, we can go back and reflect on that time. We can recall if we were happy or if we were concerned about something at that time.
These are all possible if we took the photograph or if we were the subjects of the photograph, but what about a photo taken by someone else?
In our travels, my wife and I visit a lot of museums and one of my favorite exhibits is always a series of photographs taken by someone. Viewing these photos gives me the opportunity to speculate what was going on in the lives of those pictured in the photo. And old black and white photos allow even more speculation, as we also have to fill in the missing color.
My wife has well documented the purchase, demolition, renovation, and furnishing of our condominium. And I will be the first to admit, that I entrusted all of the decorating decisions about color, design, and style to my wife and her lifelong friend Jane, an interior designer. But when it came to selecting items to hang on the walls, there was one item I especially wanted—a vintage photograph.
The back door entrance to our condominium building has a number of small photos of mid twentieth century Memphis hanging along the wall.
Having made this desire known to my wife, she kindly gave me a hand-made certificate for one of my own choosing for Christmas last year.
I already knew that I wanted one that included a shot of the downtown Goldsmith’s building, a local department store name long gone but one that held significance for us. I just needed to pick out which one, get it printed and framed.
All of those activities have now been completed and just a few weeks ago, was hung in the condo.
One morning recently while eating breakfast at the condo, I found myself staring at the photo.
The photo I had selected was one of Main Street from 1949, the year my parents had wed and many years before there own lives would lead them to Memphis. I began to wonder about the people in the photo. Were any of them still alive? How had their lives faired since being photographed 65 years ago? Were any of the cars still on the road, well maintained classics by someone who loves cars or were they neglected, rusting away in a field? There was no way to know the answer to any of these questions. But it was still fun to reflect and wonder.
I suspect I’ll wonder just that for many more mornings while I am sitting at the table eating breakfast. In fact I am wondering that right now as I sit at the table in our condo, staring at the photo, and typing these words. But who knows, one day, one of the individuals pictured in the photo may somehow be connected to me in my modern day world. It was interesting for me to learn upon picking up my photo from the Memphis Heritage office, that one of their volunteers who was helping catalog the buildings in each photo recognized herself and one of her friends in another of the Newman photos. You just never know.