Friday, March 9, 2012

Photo Friday (2), Vintage PhotoBomb Edition

Ready for another round of anonymous family photos? It's Friday, so I know you are!

I've been scanning old snapshots like a crazy person, and I hope you'll enjoy the fruits of my digital labor. One of the best side bonuses of scanning in tiny pictures is, for some reason, my computer blows them to four or five times their original size in the photo editing program I use. Which means... "Wow, how did I never see that?!" can be overheard from the Green (office) Room in my house more often that is usual. Little pictures, blown up, put up against with the scrutiny of these screen weary, though eagle-like, eyes, have produced a few surprises along the way.

Here are my top examples of the pre-internet photobomb! See if you can spot the offender first.


Lilly, Lenore, and Vera pose as three little maids from school, possibly on graduation day, 1914. Each carries multiple bouquets of the dripping floral arrangements you see in Edwardian wedding photos for the occasion of their commencement ceremony. The framing is picture perfect, the girls pretty and practically identical, and everything is as it should be until you see...



While relatively innocuous in terms of photobombs, I like the idea that the little girl was walking home and noticed three girls in virginal white graduation dresses, and stopped to see what was going on. "What're y'all doin'?" She probably never even knew she was in the photo! The concept of a single, brief second, unposed, being captured and never even acknowledged by the sitter is a really exciting one to me. Can you see Lilly, after getting the photos back from the drugstore, noticing the neighborhood scamp and saying, "There's little Annie Mackinall! Didn't she know we were taking a picture?!" and subsequently scissoring the little girl out of several of the prints. But not this one.


The above group shot is from a series of cabinet cards from the same sitting, which I found at a Family Tree Estate Sale (you can see co-owner Melissa Larson's excellent blog here) a few months ago. I bought a whole set of photos from one of those "it's so-and-so's family, and none of us know him" photo collections, and was just over the moon about the sheer number of "same day shots" included. I'll have to show you the rest of them another time, but this one was pointed out to me by Melissa as special for a reason you might not have caught the first glance around (I didn't):


If it isn't Cousin Franklin Ray, the songbird of the bunch! We told him to put the guitar away, but he couldn't be physically restrained from hambonin' up our family portrait! Jeez, Franklin Ray.

What selection do you think he was playing as he was captured in mid-song ? My vote is for something by Stephen Foster. It's open to the viewer's interpretation at this point, however... isn't it strange to know that there's probably a very funny story behind and concerning this photo that no one knows? Also, how do you like the women's semi-Western looking shirtwaist attire? I vote the woman to the far left of the frame, in the plaid stunner, as best dressed, with honorable mention to the gentleman holding the boy in the short-dress.

And last but not least:


At first glance: "Oh, what a nice picture of some woman in the mid-forties'!" The jacket slung over her shoulders but not on, the forest/possibly vacation setting, the smile on her face... and then you see:


What a face! This has got to be the most intentional photobomb of the bunch. It reminds me a lot of my grandaddy, of whom there are precious few photos in a "serious" mood. He was always screwing up his face, sticking out his tongue, or even turning his back just before the shutter snapped. You'd think his face just looked that way from the sheer incidence of photo-ruining he perpetrated in his lifetime, but I assure you, he was actually handsome man. With a photobomb problem. I think the woman in the photograph must have known the guy to the right was going to do SOMETHING, but it was probably a surprise until she got the photos back. "Couldn't you be serious for five minutes!" the woman probably said, but by then, it was probably a better picture of that particular moment and the fun the group had than a "straight" portrait would have been.

I think these photos, which I'm sure the taker probably thought were ruined by a moment of frivolity, are so much more interesting than if all the parties' involved has acted according to plan, or sat stone-faced for the image to be taken. How much more character and pizazz do the pictures have by virtue of their surprises?

Do you have any family photos (or non-family photos) that have a hidden (or not-so-hidden) surprise?

Have a great weekend, folks! I'll see you Monday.


  1. fun photos and photobombs! hey, i can't find a way to email you - not seeing anything on your site or your blogger profile and your comment on my blog arrived in my inbox as a no-reply blogger! so, here i am to ask if you'd like to contribute to my favorite finds series! you have so many great vintage goodies! please email me at and let me know! :)

  2. @Jamie: I love how "no-reply blogger" somehow sounds like an Appalachian insult ("Ya no-account, good-fer-nuthin', no-reply blogger!"), ha ha! I sure don't mean to be so aloof and distant! I'll shoot you an email in just a minute, that sounds like a lot of fun. :)

  3. haha, i love these! especially that last one. i collect silly old photos, i need to scan mine!

  4. I found your blog and commented on it earlier in the week. You said to keep reading more, and I have! Like I said before "Wow". Now I say "WOW!!!". So enjoy this site. As for the old photos-I have always loved old photos, whether or not I know the people or the people of the people. I took on a project of scanning brownie negatives my mom saved. They were mostly of my family before me. Everyone was younger than when I came into their lives. So, it is kind of like I don't know them, but I do. LOVE old photos. From what I have seen so far your collection of unknowns is just dandy. The yearbooks too! I have some also and alas, my family thinks I am crazy. I say not. I will keep reading, with pleasure!

  5. Oh my gosh, I love these! Especially that first one. The little girl is kind of ghostly.



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