Meet Naomi

 Look at these three images and ask yourself, “Who wouldn’t like to be Naomi’s friend?”

At this age – a wagon, a great hat, a kitty and a long-suffering dog, and parents who dote on you: life may never be better!

Everything about these images indicates very moderate circumstances: They are not the work of a professional and were likely taken by someone in her family; the camera and lens were not of high quality (the image is not sharp, the paper is thin, coarse fibered with a matte finish, the edges are not masked). Cameras were a significant purchase at the time for anyone of average means, but someone wanted to have mementos of Naomi’s childhood. The prints were never mounted on card and show no indication of having been in an album, so their survival is remarkable and they are in quite clean condition after a century. Scrawled on the back of one print is her full name in a childish penmanship that may have been her own: Naomi Ebellon(?) Ebright(?).

Sad, perhaps, that her photos are now lost to her heirs; but they can be enjoyed by you and a wider audience than she or her family ever could have imagined.


Hat Couture

“What were you grownup folks thinking? How large does a hat have to be? This one is only three times as big as my head! This really does not make me want to grow up very soon.”



Mrs. Clemons Poses

This photograph was done by a photographer who knew what he/she was doing where glamour was the goal. The “Mrs.” written on the back indicates that this was a private portrait and not a promotional for a personality, so we may assume. Was the very unusual and dramatic “hand on the head” profile shot her idea or the photographers? She had the figure that was de rigueur for the period (1920s) and she knew it.

Nothing is by chance: notice that a backlight catches the fine facial hair to enhance the profile; the focus is shallow – restricted to her hand, arm, shoulder and face, everything else is softer or out of focus (though you can tell the beads on the dress are tubular); there is just a point of light in the eye.

This print was in excellent condition, requiring little restoration; I preserved the tone because it is delightful; my only wish is that it had not been done on an impressed texture paper, but that too is period. Glad this print survived; glad I have it.



The Clues Are Here ...


A studio family portrait of incredible composition and tonal range. A woman dressed in black with identically dressed daughters of different ages. This is a postmortem memorial photograph which is not that uncommon for the times – the clue is the photograph propped against the cushion in the foreground; in it is the family with the father holding the younger daughter several years before.

You can be certain these little girls understand the significance of this event, but we can only speculate about how recently their father died.

The mother’s sleeves in the earlier photograph places this in the 1890s.


History of a Photo

The life of this photograph might go something like this:

1910 – “This is last year’s float in the parade; that’s Ellen C_____ in the middle there; she got married in October.”

1922 – “Look, here’s a picture of some float from Harry’s carpet business.”

1938 – “Here’s a funny old picture, bet it was from cousin Frank F______’s daddy’s business before the war; think it went bust even before the crash.”

1956 – “Hey, look what I found in some old boxes in that closet; I think I remember someone saying somebody in the family used to sell persian rugs. Look at those dresses and hairdos.”

1978 – “Where did this come from? How did it get in our stuff? Any idea what it is? Beats me; give it to Aunt Sarah, she might know what it is."

2001 – "Here are some more boxes of junk from that estate; don’t know when I’ll have time to go through this stuff.”

2008 – “I’ll bet somebody will think this is interesting and buy it; never can tell. Put it on eBay. Call it Early 1900 Horse Drawn Parade Float.”

“Told you somebody would buy it! Some folks will buy anything.”


Photography and the technology to reproduce photos in print were a boon to advertising products, and pretty ladies were used to attract readers from the beginning.