I love old photographs of people that I don’t know

Published on 05/31/10

I was asked by my wife’s friend to retouch some old photographs of her family in China (the spot healing brush in Photoshop became by best friend). One scene, in particular, was very engaging for me—a bride being whisked to her wedding through a crowded street. (I haven’t gotten permission to use her photograph here on my blog, but here is a small crop of it. We’ll call it fair use until I get permission.)

people I don’t know any of these people, and I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them if I did. As I am working on the image, removing the worst spots and scratches caused by decades of being stuffed into envelopes and transported around the globe, I see the faces of these people with their varied expressions and am reminded of how caught-up-in-my-own-world I get. I get overwhelmed by circumstances and start feeling sorry for myself, but on this one little square piece of paper is a snapshot of many different people, all with worlds of their own. Each one is worried about something, or happy about something, or excited about something. These aren’t just shades of light and dark on paper, these are souls at a specific point in time who were just as real as I am right now with my thoughts and feelings.

It takes a lot of effort on my part to look at this and try to think what they are thinking and feel what they were feeling—to feel the reality of it. I love old photos.

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