Posts Tagged ‘Square America’

roller skating house theboatlullabiesOne of my favorite things to do online is to browse through some of the sites that feature found photographs, images that have been lost or abandoned by their original owners and picked up by others at flea markets, yard sales, etc.  Almost all are by amateurs and feature many day-to-day scenes of friends and families, some remarkable and some not so much.  Some a little bit too personal.  But there is something quite beautiful in the sum of them, an artfulness that is naturally gained and not thought out, much of it unintended.

I find a lot of inspiration in going through these images.  There is often a tangible sense of emotion in these images, something that makes me wonder how something that obviously meant something to someone at some point could be just set adrift.   How many of my own family’s photos are out there like these, lost ancestors floating around in some flea market bin?

Some, like the one shown here, which I call the Roller Skating House (obviously a house in the midst of being moved), are just neat images that pique my interest and imagination.  I found this at The Boat Lullabies which is a great site ran by the person behind Square America, a site that is now down but was an amazing collection of vernacular photography.  You can still find Square America on Facebook— a great page to follow.  Another great collection of found images is at FoundPhotographs.com.

Check out some of these sites.  They are fun and often thought provoking.


Read Full Post »

Santa? Is That You?

Here’s another photo from Square America.  Santa’s a little scary here.  Reminds me of a segment from a movie from the early 70’s, the  original Tales From the Crypt, where a homocidal maniac escapes from a prison for the criminally insane. It is, of course, Christma Eve.  He ends up, now somehow dressed up as Santa (and looking very much like this guy shown here, if my memory serves me well) at the home of a character (played by Joan Collins) who has just murdered her own wealthy husband.  Hijinks ensue.

Santa can be a scary or at least strange guy for a lot of people.  My strangest memory with Santa came many years ago when Cheri and I were very young and took a trip to the Adirondacks.  There is a famous little tourist spot  that I don’t want to name but let’s just say it features Santa in his work environment as he prepares for Christmas.  There are reindeer and elves.  Your normal stuff.

Anyway, it was between seasons there in the fall.  The summer campers and hikers were gone and the winter skiers and snowmobilers weren’t due for a month or so.  So when we pulled into this park there were very few people there.  In fact, none.  We were it. 

We wandered around for while.  Fed the reindeer.  Can’t remember what else there was there actually.  I wish I had the condition I mentioned in yesterday’s post so I could tell you.  But as we strolled we caught of a glimpse of a man in a red suit and a white beard.  It was him.  The man.  Santa.

We approached and realized he was leaning against a building.  Smoking a cigarette. 

Looking back, I knew he viewed us as adults well past believing in Santa, which was true.  But we were still young and relatively unjaded, wanting to at least maintain the facade of the myth. At least wanted this guy to play his part.   And here was Santa sucking on a Marlboro.  I think he flicked the butt on the ground and crushed it with his black Santa boots.

We talked for a while and he was kind of matter of fact about everything.  Even a little crusty.  No ho-ho-hos here.  He told us they were thinking about relocating this North Pole workshop down the mountain further where the main road passed.  As he explained, “That’s where the money is.” 

However disappointed we were, we laughed all the way down the mountain road and to this day we both chuckle whenever we hear the term that’s where the money is and think of our smoky Santa.

Maybe it was this guy.  I can’t be sure.

Read Full Post »


I wrote yesterday about the site Square America which is a great collection of everyday photography of all sorts from the last century.  I came across this photo in one of the galleries, Down By The Tracks, which features photos of railways and railway adjacent places.  This photo just caught my eye and made me stop.

It filled me with an inexorable sadness.  I’ve sat for a while looking at this photo and can’t fully explain how it makes me feel other than to say that. 

 The fading from age and probably a flawed camera or poor processing give this photo a ghostly feel, as though you’re watching lost spirits wandering in search of a final place to rest.  The fact that you can’t see the faces give this piece a greater sense of anonymity and the posture of the lady in the rear, with her arms set straight down as she shuffles forward, feels like hopelessness.

It’s an odd little picture and one that raises many more feelings than probably was meant when it was snapped those many years back.  There was probably at one point a series of photos that accompanied this photo and gave it context, filled out some sort of narrative for the people in and around the scene.  But taken from this context it becomes ghostly and forlorn for me. 

I wonder where they were heading and why they were walking the tracks.  Why did someone take a photo like this?

Read Full Post »

I love this site that I’ve recently come across.  Called Square America, it is a site dedicated to preserving vintage photos from the first 3/4 of the 20th century.  Not art photography but everyday family photos, police photos and other vernacular photos of the time.  These photos give a beautiful narrative to life in America during this time and are really engrossing.  I could spend hours just browsing through the many galleries.

There are many, many great galleries of photos coveing a multitude of subjects, some that contain police mugshots, photos that chronicle  television coverage of JFK’s funeral (actual pictures of a TV!) and, my favorite, the ones that have photobooth pictures that play as a slide show to give the effect of moving pictures.  If you click on the photo above you will see a great example as the young girl ages through the pictures until she is well into middle age. 

The creator of this site is Nicholas Osborn who also has a book of these photos that he compiled in collaboration with photographers Michael Williams and Richard Cahan, called Who We Were.  It looks like a great, albeit late, gift for those who love such things as Americana and how we lived in the last century.

If you can find a few minutes to just browse a bit, check out this site.  There is definitely something for everyone.  Here’s a beautiful Christmas memory from their site.  I think it might have been inspired by the poor little tree from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: