Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If Walls Could Talk: An Exhibit of Old Photographs

If you're following us on Facebook, you probably know that last week I came home with a stack of salvaged picture frames and no idea what to do with them.

Leslie and I kicked some ideas around, considered some suggestions we got on Facebook, and then decided to do something weird. I went to an antique shop in town for supplies: a stack of old photographs, most from the 1920s to 40s, some from the war, portraits, candids, and landscapes, all salvaged from an old woman's estate after she passed away several years ago. The rest of the supplies are things we had laying around: paint, string, and thumbtacks.

The first thing I did was paint all the frames white. After they dried, I flipped them over one by one and attached a length of yarn horizontally with thumbtacks hammered into each side of the frame.

After all the frames were "strung," I arranged them on the floor so I could plan out where to hang them. This step probably took way too long.

I put the frames up on the wall and sorted through the old photos, picking out my favorites. I wanted the interesting ones, but I was also mindful of the colors. The photos that were more sepia toned than black and white would be best, so they would blend with our brown wall. I hung the pictures with some metal hook-and-clasp things that we picked up at an Ikea a couple years ago for a few bucks, and I think they do the trick nicely.

Now our wall is kind of like a museum of someone else's life. We have no connection to the person these photos belonged to or the people in them. Besides some writing on the backs of a few (mostly in German), we don't even know anything about these people. But even though they can't talk, they still tell a story. There's a young woman picking out flowers--maybe for her wedding. Another is a woman in an apron standing by a chair--this might be the only photograph ever taken of the housemaid. There's a series that might be a woman standing on a bridge, first by herself, then with her sister, and finally her best friend.

We'll never know these people, and they will never know us, but we don't mind them hanging around.