This beauty is my great grandmother.
Flea Markets, are they trash or treasures? Junk or jewels? I guess that truly depends on the person but for me I LOVE flea markets, antique stores, thrift stores and the like. There is something so fascinating at peering into the past and I don’t mean a textbook past but rather someone’s personal past. I am obsessed with history and since a young age I have loved to see and touch things from yesteryear.
My fascination with “old stuff” has led to some great (or strange) collections. My normal collections include old books and antique china but I also have recently gotten into collecting old photographs, specifically from the Victorian age through the 1920s. I know this may seem strange and creepy to some of you but I believe the photographs are magical and here is why.
First, these portraits are beautiful! The effort people put into their appearance 100 years ago puts us to shame. (Looking at you people of Wal-Mart!) They had pride of personal appearance and while I love wearing t-shirts I also feel something has been lost. After college or marriage, very few of us have a reason to put on anything too fancy which is a shame because I believe we carry ourselves differently when dressed up because we feel different. This is the same reason I keep an emergency tiara at my house. There are some days when I just couldn’t bear the thought of folding another load of clothes without that gleaming beacon perched on my head.
Second, for the middle and lower classes during this time photography was a luxury. We have lost the “wow” associated with the ability to capture a moment in time. We’ve become a generation that takes selfies in the bathroom on the regular or snap a photo of that Starbucks that looks just like the other 300 we’ve uploaded. Pictures are not special to us in the same way they were during this time. In fact, we are some bombarded by pictures that I wonder if when we look at them if we really see them.
Third, these pictures give you a true view of the past and I mean the real past not the Hollywood past. I like to see what people were really like and how they dressed. I love to look in the background of pictures to see what the wallpaper looked like or the cars. I like to see the appliances of yesteryear and even better the holiday snaps. When teaching about different fashions and decades in class I make sure to include old family photographs. It nice to show my students people and places they know or have visited. I like that I can assure them of the reality of these images in a time of Photoshop.
Finally, I love that these pictures allow these nameless people to be remembered in some form. I might not know their names or their story but they haven’t been completely forgotten and I think that’s lovely. I have graduation photos from the 1920’s and picnics from the Edwardian age. Family portraits and new births. It’s nice to remember that these people had hopes and dreams and trials just like us. I like that we aren’t alone in the human experience and that perhaps we can learn something from those that went before us.
So, in the end, these little collections bring me joy for their unique artistry and magical qualities. What about you? It doesn’t have to be something expensive. Old coke memorabilia? China dolls? Advertisements? Sporting goods? Who knows what is waiting out there to be cherished by you? So, the next time you are looking for something to fill your Saturday afternoon stop by one of these treasure troves of history. Take the time to peek into a simpler era. An era that is as fascinating as it is beautiful.
***If you are in South Mississippi or will be coming through at some point, let me recommend several venues to find amazing items.
Two Fat Friends (Wiggins, MS)
The Lucky Rabbit (Hattiesburg, MS)
Southern Market (Hattiesburg, MS)
Simply Vintage (Hattiesburg, MS)
Leaman's Antique Mall (Hattiesburg, MS)