These pictures depict a timeless moment. Six people went on a sight seeing trip on a hazy summer day in the mid-1940s. One brought along a camera and they posed for candid photos. The photographer went home, had the pictures developed and placed them in an album. I bet your family did something like this as well. Collecting photographic memories was a popular pastime.
Now fast-forward seventy years. The album is gone. It was taken apart for resale. These four images are all that’s left. In the antiques world, each photo is usually worth more than the sum total of whole album of unnamed individuals. It’s quite likely the owner of the album never wrote their name in it or identified the people in the pictures. Why would they? The person who put it together knew who was in the pictures. No need to write it down.
Solving the Riddle
These four pictures are part of a special group of photo mysteries that rely on finding the right person with the right set of facts. There is no context for these images. No family names. No extra information from relatives. They are lost and considered worthless until proven otherwise.
Solving this type of visual enigma is part research and part connecting with a person or organization. Every one of us has knowledge based on our lives—where we lived, our interests or the people we’ve known. Time and patience are often necessary ingredients too. In the movie Jurassic World (spoiler alert) there is a scene where the younger brother says, “More teeth.” He’s referring to needing a bigger dinosaur to win the battle. In these photo instances, finding the answer relies on more eyes seeing the pictures. That’s the case with this group of images.
Counting the Clues
These four snapshots once occupied a place in a black paper family album. The paper is still glued to the back. They’ve had a hard life. There is even a dirty fingerprint visible on one of them.
Each picture has an irregular deckle edge border. A clue, but it’s not a definitive one. Deckle, also called feathering, was common from the late nineteenth century through the twentieth century. Other photo details determine a date for an image such as picture type and clothing.
Each of these snapshots are 3 ¼ x 4 ¼. “ There were several different cameras capable of producing pictures with this image size. A few of the possible cameras were first introduced in the early 1900s. Remarkably, Kodak kept producing film for some of these cameras until circa 1961.
In the 1940s, women tied their hair in a bandanna like the woman on the right of the first picture. She wears pants like the woman in the middle, a not unusual fashion choice for women in the 1940s.
These three women posed in a different location on the same overlook. There is a city behind them. A puff of smoke behind the head of the woman in the head wrap could signify a factory.
What’s clear from studying these pictures is that these are not random pairings of people. Look closely at these four images. The woman in the middle seated on the rocks is the same one standing to the left of the man in suspenders with an older woman (possibly his mother) to his right. The same man in suspenders stands with a younger man in a tie in another image. The younger man stands next to a woman in a striped dress in the fourth picture.
The foliage, hazy sky and choice of clothing suggest it was summer. They weren’t hiking. Two of the women wear heels and the men have dress shoes. It was likely an auto trip to see the sights. They may have taken turns taking pictures with the same camera or there was another person present.
To study the details in your pictures, scan them at a high resolution then play with the contrast using a photo-editing program. Darkening or lightening certain areas will draw attention to details.
It’s a two-fold mystery.
Who are they and where are they standing?
The river in the background should be familiar to someone. It’s likely this scenic overlook is still a popular picture taking location. If it’s beside a road, it’s quite possibly fenced in to prevent visitors from getting as close to the edge as these individuals did. It looks familiar but I can’t place it. No matches immediately popped up in Google images, so I’m hoping some of you have ideas about this location.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely we’ll ever know who they are, but if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the answers usually come as a surprise. Random coincidences stack up.
Please show this image to as many people as you can. Friends, members of your genealogy group, and share it through social media. Share your thoughts in the comments section. If you have pictures that provide proof, please share them as well.
Take a good look. You might be the one. The identifier. The one who can identify the place (and maybe a family).