Is it weird that I like to look through old photos? Not just family pictures, but also those of strangers. I find it fascinating to look at these moments captured in time, frozen for eternity, and wonder what became of the people.
With family photos, it’s interesting to see the faces, the expressions, and know that I share DNA with these people. Occasionally, I can see how certain facial features or physicality carried on through the generations. The way the eyes are set in a face, or the shape of a nose, maybe a hairline.
And with family, I generally know something about the unfamiliar – yet familiar – faces set in black and white or faded color. I know that they had children, where they lived, maybe even when and how they died. There isn’t much mystery there, but it’s still interesting to see them there in my hand and to wonder about their lives. Were they happy? Content? Did they love? Hate? Feel regret? Were they content with their lives or did they long for something more?
Recently, I’ve been helping my partner clean out some clutter at her parent’s house and I’ve stumbled upon several photo albums and boxes filled with old photos. It’s like discovering hidden pirate treasure. Most of the photos are older ones, black and white, sepia-toned, color-tinted. All the faces are strangers to me, people I’ve never met, know nothing about, and I’ve spent far too much time the past few days sifting through these pictures and wondering.
That’s where my weird obsession comes into play. I like to look at these old photos, these strangers, and wonder about their lives. I have no direct relation to these people, no idea what they were like, where they lived, what they might have felt. A few photos may have names, a date, maybe a location scribbled on the back with a pencil, but most are unblemished, leaving me to use my imagination to fill in the blanks.
I guess it’s the writer in me that enjoys this activity. I get to make up stories about complete strangers, create personalities, wants, needs, desires, fears, hopes, and dreams. That’s an amazing feeling, the creative process. By using the photos as prompts, I also feel like I’m exercising my imagination, giving it a workout, like a light cardio session. I can stare at the faces of strangers and just…well, just make things up.
For fun, I included a few of the photos in this post so you can have a better idea of what I’m looking at, what I’m actually seeing. Out of curiosity, what is it that you see when you look at these photos? Does your imagination kick into gear and begin to wonder about the possibilities? Do you feel any connection to these strangers from the past? Do you think you may have had anything in common with them?
I think that old photos are some of the best ways to give my creativity a jump-start. I still have a few hundred photos to browse, but I plan on setting aside some of the more intriguing ones. Maybe there are a few stories hidden in those boxes and photo albums. I’m looking forward to finding them.