Little Boxes, Sorting the Photographs

Sorting the chaos, after deciding to invest in a large job lot of photos that was going for a good price. The amount of photos within my collection of 20th century domestic photography has risen to over a 1000 photographs. This was one of the big tasks of project so far sifting through a box jam packed with layers upon layers of delicate photography paper.

Its an archival conundrum indeed! When photos from so many families have been muddled so thoroughly. How is one to bring order, sort by size, sort by subject, and sort by date or attempt the impossible and try and match up dozens of family albums! I have begun to slowly starting to spot repeated faces and draw links. Have also noted things like only one person used a Polaroid instant print colour camera so there photos are easy to spot. Placing them in envelopes within archive boxes while I save up for some proper archive wallets.

There is something special about sorting through artefacts/archives, especially this type of photography which is so personal. There is something so powerful in the photos. Each layer brings countless insights to the hundreds if not thousands of people connected or featured. It seems so strange there context like memories sold by bulk.

There can be an assumption that the internet, social media age has changed people. It’s had an undeniable effect. But sorting through these photos, the majority from families in the South East of England ranging from the late 19th century to the 1970s in all of them there is such humanity. Fashions and technology may have changed but people have not. People laugh, smile and frown. They go on days out, have family gatherings, they work on their farms or in the city, in the lab, the street, the studio, the office, the shop, the warehouse. They photograph their children, their parents, their spouses, their lovers, their pets and even their houses. They capture what means most to them. They write messages of love to each other and buy their kids school photographs. Much has changed in this time, much for good, some not so much. But whatever happens their people are people! Even this empty Boots photo wallet found amongst the auction lot is a fascinating insight into the past. You have to wonder who ‘Young Eric’ was and how he ended up gaining such an endearing nickname!

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