Have you ever picked up an old cabinet photo portrait or beautifully composed silver nitrate photograph with no names or description written on the back. Found in a box of random images at a garage sale or bought as a thing of curiosity from an antique dealer, these pictures, separated from their stories, float on our imaginations. They are memories not forgotten but unlinked from a chain of family genealogy or a stream of shared experiences. They bring us face to face with the way recollection works but with clues missing, triggers stuck, time disguised around the edges of a camera’s moment.
Beautiful images like this are impenetrable mysteries completely resistant to our questions. Who are these people? Where is this Place? What became of them? Were they happy? Did their lives work out?
Here is all the curators at WSHS left us to go with this striking 1901 portrait:
“Black and white image of a couple next to a house in Tacoma, Pierce County, WA. The couple is dressed formally, the man in a dark suit with white bow tie and stand up collar, the woman in a full length dress decorated with lace applique and a high lace collar”.