Orphaned Images: Significance Unknown

The other night I was finishing a letter to a pen-friend in Germany. Yes, I know that seems like a rather 1950s-era sort of a hobby, and it’s a peculiar little addition that has grown from my other hobby of swapping postcards with random people from all over the world. I’m not making myself sound cool here – but I did a blog earlier in the year to explain the attraction to getting lots of post from people I’ve never heard of.

Upon finishing the letter I wondered whether I should put something else in the envelope with it. Sometimes people request train tickets, currency, interesting stamps and so forth. Being in advertising I rather like it when people send me interesting ads from foreign magazines (phew – I’m almost justifying this hobby as a legitimate professional interest.) Then I had an odd idea, send a photo. A random photo, one that neither I nor the recipient would really know anything about. So I headed to eBay to search for vintage photos, there were thousands of them – entire nameless family albums being sold off for a few quid. A lot of the pictures were given titles such as ‘Unknown attractive woman with child, 1940s’. Without sounding all soppy – because folks like that get right on my bloody tits – it struck me as rather sad that someone had likely died without any extended relatives being located and their family photos had been taken away in a house clearance, perhaps sold in a box of mixed items at an auction and their whole relevance lost forever. They just became anonymous orphaned images of nameless people. So, I bought a handful of photos that for some reason or another intrigued me.


My peculiar little plan for these photos is to write on the reverse side the same short story that I have just explained here. Sure, some people will likely be horrified that I’m scrawling on something that was once precious to someone at some time, somewhere. But I’m sure no one would have the same concerns over writing an inscription in the front of a book. I think a little touch of customisation makes any item more interesting and grounds it with some sort of meaning, which probably explains my strange predilection for putting stickers on every surface I can find. I’m intending to send the photos on to new homes around the world – from now on they’ll have a small story to tell and a reason to be kept, even if the subjects of the photos remain forever unidentified.


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