Thursday, January 23, 2014

Operation: Photo Rescue

You may remember from my Vintage Potpourri post a while back that I came into possession of two beautiful photo albums.  Most of the photos are in terrific condition, despite their crumbling, assuredly acid-filled album pages, and for a while now I've wanted to transfer them over to a new, safer method of storage.  My hope was to get black pages I could put back into the original albums, since their covers are so beautiful, but it finally got to the point where I just needed to get them out of the disintegrating papers and somewhere safe.

So with that in mind, I headed over to B&H to figure out how best to store these celluloid treasures, and got a lot more than I bargained for.  That store is massive.  As in, massive.  I got a little overwhelmed and since I couldn't quickly find the paper I was looking for--and realized getting it into the albums would be a little more complicated than I'd thought, with different sizings, acid-free settings, protective covers, etc. to account for. To make things easier, I bought two small albums for simple, no-muss storage.  It turns out I have way more photos than these albums have pages, so I'll be making another run soon, but in the meantime, I think it's a good temporary solution.

Then began the honestly rather depressing process of removing the photos from their original paper.  While some of the photos were displayed using photo corners, a great many of them were pasted in.  And as I started carefully peeling them up, I discovered whoever originally took and owned the photographs had just as carefully documented many of the photos.  Much of the writing is now lost.  

Why glue? Why?
It makes me wonder about the life of these photos-- I really doubt the same woman who took such care in writing on the backs of them is the person who pasted them into the paper.  Interestingly enough, the paster seems to have taken a doubtlessly well-intentioned route to preservation: the older and more documented the photo, the more heavily the paste was applied.  Well-intentioned, and now super frustrating.

Anyway, I wanted to share a few of the gems I've found so far.
"The L.O.S.L. gang & Helen S., July 4, 1937
I have no idea what the L.O.S.L. gang is, but it looks like a fun group of ladies!  One woman (back row, second from right) even has the acronym sewn onto her sweater!

This one is really sweet, and at the same time, breaks my heart from the reverse side's condition:

The reverse says, "Met him in the Watres Armory on a Monday nite. Aug 14, 1935."  Then at the bottom, "Don't be afraid my love, this only my ____, N.J."  I thought it might say Aunt something, but I'm not sure the top would make sense.  In any case, even though this photo was kept in the album by photo squares, it still saw some damage from age, and possibly the pages themselves.

I have a little bit of a crush on the woman seated all the way to the right in this photo.  She appears throughout the album:

And in fact, there are many photos of women in menswear from the 1930s, which I'm so happy to have come across-- I think it speaks to the popularity of the look in the period.  Or at least, with certain segments of the population.  Here's the back:

"Taken in Carmel's yard, Dunmore, July 4, 1937.  There are several photos from that date, and many featuring Carmel.
Next up, a lady with a great sense of humor. 

This one says, "It's really me, Mike, ___. Next picture I'll push out my face-- No I'm not really that fat it's the coat. Ha, Ha,".  I've gotta say, that's why I've never invested in a swing coat.  I think she looks nice, but I sympathize with the self-assessment.

Throughout the album, the rectangular pieces cut from pages and empty picture squares testify to the way the photos were sold before I got to them.  If I'd wanted, I could've ripped out a page and bought it, rather than the whole thing.  I much prefer, obviously, to keep them together--it's a family album, after all--and I wonder what photos are floating out there alone.  This one is a fallen soldier, I'm guessing from someone who wanted to pull out just that photo.

But, let's go out on a high note-- this one caught my eye partly because of the celebration it's captured, but also for another reason:

Is it just me, or do I look like the girl hoisting that wine jug in the air?  I mean... that's probably who I would be in a similar party situation.  Partly because babies make me nervous.  Here's the reverse:

"The Whole Family reunion. What a sharp time we all had."  Hey, who knows-- maybe that hard-partying, babyless lady in the back is me in a former life!


  1. I am so impressed that you went to B&H to seek out ways to preserve these! I should work harder to preserve mine. They are just sitting in a box. :/

    My favorite here is the LOSL girls! I have no idea what that stands for either!


    1. I think a box is much better than glued onto the paper-- I did think about just an acid-free box, but I think that was on another floor, so... album it was. I love that photo, too; I'm down with any gang with embroidered sweaters.

  2. I want to be part of the LOSL gang! They are my kind of companions.

    1. Right? They look like a really fun bunch. Apart from the fashion perks of group shots, I really like the camaraderie and sense of life they capture.