Saturday, 29 February 2020

Not A Smile Amongst Them - Sepia Saturday 509

I decided to once again turn back to my mum's photo album in search of something to connect to this week's Sepia Saturday theme - "that forgotten genre - the miserable photograph". *

I found her first school photo (1938):

Either they weren't looking forward to the summer holidays at all - or else they were specifically instructed not to smile... :-)

Mum must be the one standing in the middle, wearing a flowery dress. (I would have added "with a big bow in her hair, and looking serious" - but that would apply to every one of them!)

In a separate notebook from 1979, forty years later, mum wrote down some comments and memories connected to some of the photos in this early photo album of hers. On the first page, she says that she was inspired to do this because she and dad had just been going through a lot of other old photos, and having difficulties identifying people etc. 1979 was the year when my paternal grandmother died; and her old albums have almost no notes at all - plus there are lots of loose photos not sorted into albums as well. (I still have those albums and boxes of photos as well.) So I totally get - and appreciate - why mum had this thought.

Even so, it strikes me now that even mum's notes do not always verify for example who is who (including herself) in a group photo. (Because to her it was obvious - but...)

I guess the same is probably true with my own albums.

* Sepia Saturday 509 theme image:
"Six people sat around a table and not a smile amongst them."

Sepia Saturday


  1. One of the bugbears of old family photos is that they were very often unannotated. I've been going through mine trying to make sure that anything worthwhile family-wise has been marked.

    1. Graham, hopefully your descendants will be grateful for your efforts one day! As I have no next generation of close family to pass things on to, I've recently been more concerned about identifying some of the inherited photos (more likely perhaps to be of somewhat wider historical interest). My own photo albums have plenty of notes already. My digital photos on the other hand (unless they ended up blogged)...

  2. Great shot! I suspect they were told not to smile.

  3. On the theme photo, I am fairly sure the gentleman sitting on the left side is smiling under his beard.
    You are probably right in that the children in your mother's school picture were told not to smile. When my mother was that age, like most children she was undergoing the change from what we call milk teeth to her permanent teeth, and there were several front teeth missing. When her school photo was taken, she was told not to laugh or smile, as the smile with gaps was considered ugly!

    1. Meike, there's an explanation I did not think of (the missing teeth)!

  4. I have wondered about old photos if they were told don't smile or if ever one was as unhappy with life as they always look. certainly a far cry from photos today. I wonder if 60 years from now people will look at old what we call selfies and think what was up with all the close up grins

  5. While the kids were not smiling, their teacher was!

  6. An amusing photo. Not only are the children not smiling, but the two off to the left have their heads turned toward something off-camera. Perhaps the teacher told them not to horse around, hence the glum faces. Glad you at least know who you mother is in the photo. A reminder to us all to label our photos.

  7. The children look like their teacher has just announced that there will be no ice cream and everyone must return to class. My family pictures are mostly unidentified but generally I can pick out my parents in their youthful photos. But cousins, aunts, and uncles? I just guess.


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