Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Looking at Square America

For the past few weeks I've been returning again and again to a great web site called "Square America" which provides hundreds and hundreds of photos of daily life, some on special occasions, some on the spur of the moment, all from the early use of cameras and the candid moments of American life. As the site's creator Nicholas Osborn says: "Square America is a site dedicated to preserving and displaying vintage snapshots from the first 3/4s of the 20th Century. Not only do these photographs contain a wealth of primary source information on how life was lived they also constitute a shadow history of photography, one too often ignored by museums and art galleries."

It's almost like time travel. If you've never had the experience of sifting through an old shoebox of family photos, where the pictures wait on little squares of paper, some with those funky scalloped edges, some streaked with nearly illegible writing to identify the time and place and people, then Square America is the next best thing.

Images of lives and events are presented with startling simplicity and yet evoke complexity too. For decades, this kind of photo record was the cutting edge in family history. Some years back I received a few boxes of photos from my own family and have found them to be a source of endless imaginings and a vivid documentation of where I came from.

Many categories are offered - for examples, I picked just a few of the huge amount of images offered. This site is one I'll return to often.

From the section called "The Neighbors":"

From a section called "The Pleasures and Terrors of Youth":

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