Vintage Vignette - March 2019
- story and photos by Grace Wilson
You don’t need to look far to see people’s fascination with other’s lives - especially through the lens of photographs. Almost anywhere you go today you see people scrolling through their phones peering into the lives of friends, families, influencers, strangers… mostly through pictures.
And the occasional cute cat video, of course.
To many people, vintage photographs are fascinating in the same way. Flipping through old photos is a window in to another time and place.
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While most antique shops have old photos here and there, Magnolia Antiques on Main Street in Bay St. Louis has several shelves and cases dedicated to vintage photographs.
Shop proprietress Shay Coss has a special interest in these family photos from a time gone by. In fact, family members with old albums know where to take these treasures where they can be fully appreciated.
“I hear this all the time: How did someone give these up?” said Coss. “Sometimes people are at the end of the line of their family tree and they don’t want these family photos to end up in a dumpster. Here they’ll become part of another family’s collection.”
Thumbing through the albums or stacks of photos, stories emerge. Often collections reveal a timeline of a person’s life, but also the document that time and place in history. Even how the photo was taken is a snapshot of the time’s technology.
“We had a photography student come in and buy up all the photos of one particular person,” said Glenda Schornick, founder of Magnolia Antiques. “You could see the evolution of the subject, but also the changes in the art of photography through the years.”
Spending an afternoon at the shop with Coss as she excitedly showed off the different albums, it was impossible not to feel how special each photo was in its own way.
In fact, photographs are something we largely take take for granted today. Most everyone has the ability to whip out their phones and snap a shot (or sixteen) of any occasion and share it with the world through social media.
There was a time in the not to distant past that a family had to save and spend some serious pennies on hiring a photographer.
Sometimes a single photo was all a family had. This is especially true of post-mortem photographs. If a child or baby died at a young age, a family who could afford it would take the time and expense to have a photo made.
(Yes, Magnolia Antiques has a photo or two of these, too.)
We all have fascinations with lives: lives lost, lives past, lives we wish we had... and photographs — especially vintage photographs — are a perfect portal.