Poignant Pics from the Past

Vintage black and white photograph from the 1940s

I recently spotted a large plastic bag *packed* to the gills with vintage black and white photographs.

I was perusing trinkets at a local flea market and unexpectedly discovered the photo-filled plastic bag as I casually walked past the shelving unit it hung from; its view was slightly obstructed by other antiques, which included an old makeup case that I now regret not having purchased.


At any rate, I quickly snatched the photo-filled bag with much glee before any other shopper might show an inkling of interest.

As a mixed media art junkie, I couldn’t wait to get home and dive into the stash of old photographs to see which I could beautifully alter with acrylic mediums and such.

And so I began to pull out photo after photo, organizing each into lengthy rows of black and white pics across my dining room table to assess which ones caught my artistic eye more than others.

At first, I found myself creatively salivating at the imagery laid before me.

What awesome things I could and would do, I thought, to some of these photographs!

I determined some would be used as reference images, others for alteration, and still others for image transfers and art journaling. I created stacks of photos and organized them into neat little piles, each one destined for some kind of art-themed transformation.

All the while, the inspiration I felt as I pondered how I’d use each image was just oozing! I was eager to get started with my vintage photography-themed creative adventures.

But then halfway into my meticulous photo sorting, something kind of started happening, most unexpectedly.

I noticed that several of the photographs had handwritten notes on the backs of them.

Each elegantly-written note, which includes dates (e.g. “1969”), locations (e.g. “Waikiki Beach”), names (“Marguerite, Bill’s wife”), and significant milestone details (such as “10th grade”), and so on began to tug at my heartstrings.

Before long, I realized my original feelings of artistic excitement were shifting more towards some guilt and even a little sadness.

How could I, I thought, pick apart through someone’s lifelong memories for my own creative pleasures? Ugh

Obviously, I’ll never know who any of the photographed people ever are or why this collection of old family photos was sold off.

Perhaps I shouldn’t care as much and not give it further thought.

I keep telling myself it doesn’t matter, that I’m overthinking :), and that I should simply circle back to the artistic excitement I felt upon discovering the forgotten photography stash on the lonely flea market shelves.

But now, I’m not as sure.

I guess what caught me totally off guard was the beautiful penmanship on the backs of some of the photos; the writing appears to be quite feminine and makes wonder if the author was a doting grandmother, a beloved aunt, or cherished mom.

And the elegantly scribed words and names are so lovingly written, I couldn’t help but hesitate.

Whomever the author was, she clearly intended to preserve the details behind each visual moment forever.

With such thoughts swirling around in my head, my uncertainty at cutting up these pictures or altering them in any way started to get the best of me.

I’m sure I’m being (way) too sensitive.

Maybe I’m making a fuss over nothing.

Maybe 🙂

Honestly, I’m not so sure what I’ll now do.

I may just have to work through this unexpected hump and get back to my fun art journaling intentions.

But before I go busting out my scissors and all, I wanted to first journal about this experience and share some of the photos, as I’ve now done above, to honor this family’s lifetime of summer vacations, festive gatherings, and joyous birthdays across time.

As I move forward with my collaging art projects, I’ll seek to do this family’s journey through life some wonderful creative justice. Anything I produce from their imagery will be beautifully rendered and worth an artistic share.

That’s how I’ll proceed.

Thanks for reading.