I am a lover of all things vintage: Limoges china, original farmhouse furniture and old, lofty houses. I often joke that I was born in the wrong era – I much prefer a time when heirlooms were cherished and sentimental, prized pieces were passed from generation to generation with a tale or legacy making it even more priceless. I can completely lose all track of time wandering around vintage shops or flea markets while experiencing feelings of nostalgia and a sense of longing to know more about the piece or who owned it.
As much as I love antiques and furniture, there is nothing, however, that will stop me in my tracks quicker or engage me longer than stumbling upon a box of vintage photographs.
Yesterday, the Hubs and I walked through a local flea market in Flowood, Mississippi and came across a small piece of very old luggage (possibly a make-up carrier?). He, knowing me as he does, walked on to look at another booth because this was going to take a while. At first, I almost couldn’t even touch it because it felt so private and personal but eventually my curiosity got the best of me. Slowly, I started picking photographs out of the box – babies, wedding pictures, families… Some of these photographs were dated: 1937, 1942, 1929… Some, had faded inscriptions on the back: “To my darling cousin…”.
One of the photographs, and it may very well be my favorite, even though I have not went through this box completely, is a couple photographed at a fine art portrait studio on State Street in Jackson, MS by a photographer that I’m sure has long since passed away. I wonder if he ever thought about or wondered where these pictures would be in almost a hundred years? I’m sure he didn’t think they would be in the hands of another photographer in the same city in 2018.
It didn’t take me long to realize that this was someone’s family photo box… It houses years and years of family history and documented events, many professionally, that have been lovingly kept for so long. How did it get here in a flea market? As silly as it sounds, my heart was saddened… these stories, these memories, the history… in a box. On a bench. At a flea market. I’m sure these feelings all connect back to my own family legacy and the huge gaps from lost photographs or not even being documented – I saw this as someone else’s family gap; their lost history. I went to walk away several times but I kept going back fidgeting with the box and just standing there staring at it… (Yes, I’m too sentimental sometimes but I’m okay with that. I can be overly sensitive in matters of love, legacy and loss).
I’m not sure what bothered me most: the fact that this amazing piece of family history had turned up in a flea market or that all of these once priceless memories were sold to me for hardly anything. I haven’t had the opportunity to sort through the contents completely but I’ve briefly seen several small photo albums, wedding folios and even a few handwritten letters tucked inside. As a photographer, this is an absolute treasure and so exciting. As a person who greatly values legacy, this is also very sad to me.
I plan on displaying this gem with my collection of vintage cameras and, as time permits, researching some of the history and hopefully locating some of the family descendants or donating to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. This is someone’s family legacy… a history. Lost, but now found.