A lot of my time on any vintage shopping excursion is devoted to looking through stacks of vintage photographs. I just can’t think of a better way to study how people actually dressed than to examine the photos of an era. I guess it would be even better if they were all in color.
I’ve noticed that I rarely see photos younger than the early 1970s. I’m thinking that newer photos are still in the possession of their original owners, but that as time passes and the owners die, treasures from the 1970s through the 1990s will hit the market.
It has occurred to me that these wonderfully old candid snapshots are pretty much a thing of the past. With digital photography we take and retake an image until it is “perfect.” We arrange not only ourselves, but also our belongings in photographs. What we have lost is a sense of spontaneity in our photos.
I know that many history and museum people object to the use of the word “curate” outside of a museum setting, but it does aptly describe how people take photos in the digital age. I’m not saying that photo “curation” is somehow wrong; I’m saying that it is leaving a false record of how our lives actually look.
Another disturbing thought is that many photos taken today are never seen outside of the virtual world. Out of the thousands of photos I take in any year, I might actually print a hundred or so of them. I doubt that anyone prints all the photos they take these days.
Of course the trade-off is that there are so many photos digitized and shared today that the internet is a virtual photo album of the grandest sort. More and more people and institutions are digitizing collections so they can be shared online. We have access to photos of the past – and present – like never before. That said, I don’t think anything can replace the fun of a good shuffle through a stack of vintage black and whites.
Here are two more photos from the Sophie in Miami set. In the top photo Sophie is on the left, next to yet another man identified only as Sy. That’s him in the bottom photo, with his arms around Betty of the fantastic shoes, so he was probably not one of Sophie’s conquests.