These scanned copies of photographs have come from my personal collection. I would appreciate any thoughts – in the comments section below – that these images invoke either individually or in any collective way. Your help is much appreciated.

“Make a selection of up to five photographs from your personal or family collections. They can be as recent or as old as you wish. The only requirement is that they depict events that are relevant yo you on a personal level and couldn’t belong to anyone else (i.e. no pictures of the Eiffel Tower)….”

The exercise as written in the course notes, and ok, I chose six photographs.

I surrounded myself with a great many photo albums, random photographs that have been collected and stored in various places around the house and some family photographs that I have collected recently from my mother. The process of deciding – editing – which of these thousand or so photographs would appear was more difficult that I thought it would be. As soon as I started thinking about this photograph or another I realised I was editing. This editing was underscored quite often with different contextual narratives, some of which will become evident in the ‘histories’ that I will attach to each photograph. And because of those narratives I found myself advancing and retreating on this exercise of selecting images for presentation.

Of course the course is about documents, this exercise is from the first section ‘Introducing Documentary’ and follows on from a piece on ‘what makes a document’ on the WeAreOca site which can be found here, and comes directly after a discourse on discontinuity wherein lies this statement: “All photographs are ambiguous. All photographs have been taken out of a continuity. If the event is a public event, then continuity is history; if it is personal, the continuity, which has been broken, is a life story. Even a pure landscape breaks a continuity: that of light and the weather. Discontinuity always produces ambiguity.” (Berger & Mohr, 1995 p.91). I will also respond to the comments individually.

These images are all personal, some more personal than others; so, referencing the statement above, it is a life story. I could have had many different life stories from the collection of photographs that lay strewn about me. My life through my boys would be one, mostly the pictures I looked at were taken by me of my wife and our boys, so when the camera was turned on me it was usually with one or both of them, from babes in arms to adulthood, playing cricket or football, watching them act on stage or receive awards, dressed up at weddings and other formal events and through the passage of time as they became men and started on their leg on the generation relay. That these six photographs do not contain them was a difficult decision, but their lives are now their own, still very personal to me, to us, to our family. There are no work photographs, I have retired now and had always thought that people shouldn’t be defined by what they did as an occupation. “What am I?” “I am a man married to my wife for thirty six years with two sons who are both now married with their own children”. Other aspects are no more than flavourings.

These six photographs then, I realise, will tell a narrative about me and each photograph will have a description as to why they appeared in this set. A few comments have noted that the photographs have been scanned to reveal not only the image as a whole i.e. un-cropped, but purposefully as an object, almost three dimensional and with any blemishes, creases providing a clue to the materiality of the object, evidence of them being used as objects, being handed around from one person to another, one generation to another. Similarly there have been some references to death, photographs as memento mori? Well, only in as much as the narrative will describe a passing, but only of time. The couple in Photo 1 have passed on, but all other characters are still very much alive and kicking.

The edit of course revealed an auto biography as so many of the commentators remarked, they are either me or contain me (Photo 1), through a period in my life that found happiness and a sense of purpose only at the end of it (this period here). I did not expect that so many of the commentators would develop narratives, though because of the discontinuity of the images, with only speculation as a device to thread the viewers context into the images, I think I would have wanted to bring my personal experiences to bare and generate a narrative. Though I don’t think I should be surprised, given the statement from Berger & Mohr above.


Photo 1

My paternal grandparents, his name was Hector Oswald, I can’t remember her name. I received this photograph from my mother relatively recently. As a family they didn’t have much to do with us, thinking my mother not quite good enough for my father. This was taken outside their house, I don’t know when; she had a penchant for rabbit fur coats and as they appear to be going out (perhaps in) I am speculating that it might have been to an engagement. My grandfather, as a pianist, used to accompany my grandmother as she sang in local venues in the Bedford area. They went out most nights leaving the nine children they had bred and this is why I think my father despised alcohol and pubs/clubs etc for most of his adult life. That I didn’t include a picture of my parents is of course part of the narrative, but this picture contains half my DNA, and the half that isn’t my favoured one.


Photo 2

My first school photograph. It is interesting that, out of it’s cardboard holder that is detailed with Christmas Holly, the photograph is roughly cut, probably by the photographer’s assistant and that brings a sense of poignancy to the image to me. Someone said angelic, I see a lot of pain. My mother said I had a ‘lazy eye’ which I can see now, but the photograph is the earliest known picture of me and was used by my closest friends when they presented me a ‘This Is Your Life’ spoof almost two decades ago. I suppose I was told to look at the camera, so ‘face-on’ is how it is. I don’t really recognise myself in this photograph.


Photo 3

Yes, my first appearance on stage. I would have been around 8 years old, and it is something I remember to this day and I recognise me in the shot. That I was ‘blacked-up’ seems quite pertinent, I was portraying someone else, I knew my parents wouldn’t be in the audience and so I could ‘let-go’. I don’t know why I looked toward the camera, a photographer who I think was seconded for the Christmas show from the staff. I did a show number here and then mimed to “Little Drummer Boy” by Harry Simeone – I was told later that the miming looked ridiculous as my frame didn’t match the timbre of Simeone’s singing.


Photo 4

Second form school rugby team, I am sitting on the floor to the left of the picture. School scarves, school blazer, over the top of our rugby kit. Red brick grammar school, after I passed my eleven plus. To a great extent I was a fish out of water. My parents I think would have been happier for me to go to the local Secondary Modern, which is where most of the children went to including my twin sister and my other sisters and brother. I was the only one in my family to pass the exam. Rugby allowed me to excel in something that seemed natural to me, like all games I could compete on an equal footing; I also played cricket, basketball, athletics, cross country running and hockey for the school, until I got a Saturday job at the local Co-op, when I could no longer turn out for the school on the weekend. Some of these rugby payers became my close friends during my school time, but I left them when I left school. Most in this picture went on to become lawyers and accountants, some into the music business and I think one MP.


Photo 5

My first date. Elaine Dear had agreed to meet me one Saturday afternoon. My mother had made this roll-neck pullover of crimson red, gold and black just a few days before I was due to meet Elaine. I cannot remember why but I was asked to stand outside the front door to number twenty, our house, and have my picture taken by my father. They knew I was excited by this date and maybe they decided to mark the occasion. I can imagine my father laughing at the prospect of this ‘coming of age’ thing, wondering why anyone would want to meet me for a wander around Bedford town centre. The thing is, he was right. Apparently Elaine saw me before I saw her and deciding that my appearance resembled a bee she ducked away and I didn’t see her until Monday when she avoided me and wouldn’t talk to me. For a short time I had the nickname ‘bumble’ and I couldn’t work out from where it came from, until a friend told me that Elaine had told her best friend about me. I can’t understand why he took this picture, why Elaine never turned up.


Photo 6

My father also took this photograph. On the reverse side it says ‘US. July 1975 AT John’s’. The photographer in almost the same position as image 5 but turned through ninety degrees here I am with Alison, we had been ‘going out’ for about a year and within a year we were married and in a home of our own. The references in the comments about colour seem to sum up how my life had turned ‘brighter’ here I was in love, with someone who wanted to be with me, valued me above most things and who wanted to share her life with me. Again, why my father wanted to take this picture I have no idea; I can only presume that he had spare frames to get rid of. I would never have asked him to take a picture of me, maybe Alison did.


61 thoughts on “Documents

  1. This set of photos appear to me like a sort of everyman set. I’m 55 years old and have very similar photos in my family album. The formal couple, the school play, the class photo are very typical aren’t they?

    Stepping back a little to read them they suggest your working class routes. No images of University, big houses or cars.

    I hope these immediate thoughts help.


  2. Hi John,
    I have to say that this set I found it very personal, a recount of the importance of family life and how it was documented throughout the years. I’m particularly taken by the fact that you have started with your parents as adults and you not as a baby. I guess there are a plethora of ways in to composing a narrative here. Unfortunately, I don’t have such treasure, photographs didn’t survive the various moves my mother and I had to make so I feel a little jealous of your set.
    Looking forward to the follow-up.

    • Thanks Yianni, there aren’t that many photographs from my parents side; my father burned them before he died, hundreds of photographs and all the negatives, which I think is a shame.

  3. I think i’m suffering from a bit of depression, which may explain my response
    I’m looking at them and realising its people and time that have gone, so they set me in a mood of memory and loss, places and times that have gone. I feel as though they must be your family photographs but relate to them as though (almost) they were my own, I don’t look and think oh there’s JSU’s family. For instance, I look at the group school boy photo and think of a similar one I have of my father, (who is dead) rather than one of myself – perhaps because when I was in a similar photo I was in a mixed sex colour photo.
    The square b&w boy by drainpipe, I guess its you, but it reminds me of a square b&w photo I have of me in my grannies garden. The colour one, also reminds me (through) the colouring of particular ones in my own possession, and a particular times…

    Maybe I’m just self-obsessed though 🙂

    There again maybe its to do with photographs generally and how they work.

  4. Being of similar age to you John I have many similar photographs, which coincidentally I have been sorting out recently. I was interested to see that you didn’t start with a baby photo as well. It made me think very much of times gone by and as a group gave me rather a nostalgic feeling, I guess because I have the equivalent of every one of these and taken in very similar looking places, south London in my case. Younger folks I would imagine probably think very differently of course and it will be interesting to hear what the more recent generation thinks of them.
    Photo 2 I’m guessing is a studio shot from the background, neat hair and top button done up! They are all the ‘classic’ shots everyone seemed to take back then, and the final leap into colour, complete with long hair and Woodbine, sets the timeline as well. When I looked through mine there were a large number taken either by the front door and in the back garden – I don’t think we can have gone anywhere else..

  5. Might sound silly but photographs 1 and 6 are the ones that I find more special. The reason is that presented with them I’d be able to know immediately that they have not been made in Spain (I’m spanish by the way) and without context I’d have guessed something in UK. I see a completely different cultural context (clothes, buildings and even attitudes).

    On top of that the persons in the first image I found interesting with regard to their attitude (obviously posing but with some kind of proud attitude difficult to define in words).
    The colour in the last one I also found remarkable and easy to link with some photographs I have from my childhood. Clothes, hair, and even attitude also hint to a particular moment in time.

    Aside from all that i was not able to create a link among them.

    Kind regards

    • It’s not silly to find resonance anywhere Leo. The point of this exercise is, I think, to see how these images, which are discontinuities, find a sense of narrative from within the viewer. But you right about photo 6, it is special – to me at any rate.

  6. Yes, first response is to relate them to my own set of photos at similar times, and so they trigger memories. And that relation reflects back towards you, the others who have commented similarly here, and onwards to the many others who share similar sets of images and memories – all different and yet all so similar. The images have many signs that we can respond to – specifics such as dress, but more general ones such as the innocence of childhood, or the contrast between the carefree young entertainer and a more serious adolescent.

    But, as a fellow student and armed with the knowledge that you are just embarking on this course, it’s hard not to consider the images in that context. You have been asked to select images from your personal collection. How have you approached the selection? Why these six? Why the order? – Partly obvious, of course, but not necessarily so with the starting point. In fact, it’s the first image that seems to get my attention most of all. Grandparents – I think – because of the order, the dress, a sense of the time it was taken. There is a temptation to start trying to read more into the questions around your choice, ordering etc – and that makes me reflect on the way we, as students, photographers, etc, read images. We lose the ability to look innocently, if that makes sense.

    I am tempted to note one family trait – the tendency to resist photographing feet!

    Thanks for sharing & hope the comments are helpful.

    • Very insightful as ever Stan. I think I have answered the editing question earlier above. I am also aware that there a number of students who may have looked at the images and found a resonance of time and place in them.
      I’m not sure that there is such a thing as an ‘innocent’ in looking at pictures, all our views will be mediated by our own histories and those individual narratives will be developed in the pictures that come without the conditioning of provided narrative – if that makes sense!?

  7. John, Difficult to add much to those above as my reactions are similar, namely, that this could be a set of my own images. The ages of the images, the poses and the colours are similar which is not surprising as we are probably of similar age (1952 – that’s not how old I am!). I was drawn to the image #1 of your parents I think as I have this innate feeling that we are losing historical data in this digital age. Nos. 2, 3, 4, and 5 I skipped through and stopped again at #6.
    Old colour – possibly Polaroid? The cigarette struck me hard. I have an aversion to smoking but almost felt that it was not out of place. Also, the lady reminded me of my sister at about that age. The setting is somewhat different to mine as I was/am in South Africa. Hope it helps

    • Thanks Doug. my smoking stooped a few years after the colour photo was taken and as it was being exposed my twin sister was living in Jo’burg – she returned a few years later, not being able to cope with the society she found there, but she remembers the sun though!
      The colour shot, not a polaroid, is a ‘book-end’ but not a story end.

  8. Initially I felt nostalgic because like a few of us born in the 50’s these are our pictures from our time. I tend to fight against nostalgia as the memories of long summer days and endless happiness are so at odds with today’s world of angst and worry. These images are to do with social and architectural history as they are about the individuals in them. The clothes, exterior building details (no satellite dishes, cast iron rainwater pipes, metal windows) the bicycles, haircuts etc are captured without the photographer ever being aware at the time of how important these are. They tell us about the people and by these details and we can build a background that informs us of the lives of those included. The transition from B&W to colour for family photography would be around 1963 with the “instamatic” and No 6 looks of that era, perhaps a little later by the hair styles. I feel pleased for the family as they have these to cherish, keep and aid in research for many years to come. I don’t know these people but I feel warmth towards them because I recognize this world and I loved it.

    • Thanks Nigel, an interesting perspective. Our views, as I’ve said elsewhere are mediated by our own experiences. I also don’t feel nostalgia for these times portrayed here, but maybe for different reasons than yours?

  9. One other thought, after I’d walked away – your sharing of these images has changed them, in many ways. They were physical photographs that you held in your hand – unique perhaps – now they are digital files. Our viewing and commenting has moved them out of your personal domain. I wonder how that makes you feel about them.

    • They are still images in my hands. They are still physical objects that have weight and substance, that carry emotion and history. The digital files are there initially for expediency, but I realise they are a new birth

  10. I’d like to know what happened next. This set of images appears to stop in the mid/late-seventies.

    i think the change in poses between the first and last couple are nicely illustrative of the societal change that went on between the images – I wonder why those two lads were chosen to sit on the floor – why are they ewaring formal coats and rugby kit (grammar school I suspect) – what was so interesting about the brick wall that encouraged the photographer to cut of the feet off the lad leaning against it.

    In 2 and 6 the male has a rather defiant pose – presumably for very different reasons, while 4 is rather sullen all round and 5 simply wistful.

    So mainly questions rather than answers
    As others have noted this is a fairly typical out-take from the photo boxes and people of a particular age – presumably deliberately assembled into a narrative. So I repeat my earlier question. What happens next?

    • Well Nigel, things just got better and better. It is interesting just how varied some of the readings of these images are, how you have a sense that image 2 is a defiant one, when, whilst I don’t remember it being taken, defiance wasn’t an agenda item for this boy – he had to wait until he was fourteen for that to appear on the register of emotions.

  11. Photo 1- looks like a time when we still had pride in what we wore, the lady looks very smart and elegant and envokes a feeling of nostalgia for a time I’ve never known.
    Photos 2-5- Must have been the style, they are very reminscent in the posing and outfits of some photos i’ve seen of my Dad when he was younger- i remember the old album were kept in a vanity case and occasionally I was allowed to open the green fabric album and look at the pictures including those of the relatives I never knew
    Photo 6- there are similar photos of my mum and dad from the 70’s. Similar background/area, same outfits (but thats fashion) and similarity in look as Mum had long dark hair and once my Dad had a full head of hair too- the only difference is that Dad had monster sideburns

    So in summary- I can relate to these as they are so similar to images I grew up with of life before I came along. Its made me think about what images i’d put up of me? I’ve got the typical hideous outfits of a late 1970’s child, through to 80’s neon and school photos of blonde hair and missing front teeth

    • Thanks Sarah, you’ve certainly placed the period very well. Interesting what you say about being allowed to open the ‘Green album’, it must have been special, but then photographs were sometimes placed in a special position, maybe they still are..

  12. Be careful what you wish for… ; -)

    I have spent most of my time working out who is who and that the story is. Given that the pictures are you own I’ve started by assuming they are all about people very closely related to you. The first couple look too old to be your parents (judging form the picture and clothes I guess the setting to be mid-late fifties). Grandparents, or perhaps you had older parents whom I’ve just grossly insulted? A friend has an almost identical pictures of her grandparents standing outside their house on her mother’s (their daughter’s) wedding day.

    I wouldn’t normally say this out loud but I put the people onto a class category and decide they are either upper working or lower middle-class. My instinctive thought about the little boy is that it’s a dead brother or cousin or friend. Then I think it might well be you and maybe I’ve insulted you this time instead of your parents. Then I ask myself why I thought it was a dead boy and reflect on the relationship between photography and death and my own family history. He’s a rather well looked after little boy with a nice clean face and carefully dressed and showing signs of being cared for.

    I think the next picture must be you showing your interest in the stage at an early age. I can’t make much out because it’s small and your face is hidden so I pass quickly on to the next one. Grammar school boy? Rugby ball, uniforms and general demeanour say middle class-ish but maybe not quite private school (now I probably have offended you – would never normally say that but would make the assessment and am making myself be honest for this purpose).

    By the time of this picture and the next one I think it is definitely one boy’s story – namely you. No siblings? An only child? Then I remember that you have six sisters and wonder where they are and why not in one of the pictures. I decide that the woman in the final one is your girlfriend rather than sister and possibly now your wife? I set all this out because it documents my thinking process as I read the pictures. I make judgements about dates mostly from the clothes and prints (paper type and colour).

    It’s a fascinating experiment. I’m really keen now to see what others have thought. I’m worried that I’ve been so literal and possibly others will have more interesting readings, and also aware that I’ve gone on a bit,

    • I remembered that I did have a friend about the same time of picture 2 – where you speak of a dead boy who died. His family had put an old fridge in the garden and he climbed in and couldn’t open it. But your readings weren’t that far away, especially as the boy grew older.

      • Poor little boy (your friend) – what a sad story. I’ve been most intrigued in this by those who didn’t need to work out the story, and indeed by the variety of responses and what one can learn from that as well as your own choices and comments. I started to make my own set in my head having read this at first, and realised I didn’t have one of me at all, which is psychologically revealing in its own way.

        I imagine your Dad took the last two pictures for the same reason you’ve taken pictures of your own sons.

  13. No. 1 – Looks like the thirties – cloth cap and lady wearing a fur coat. Your grandparents, not your parents. I have one similar, including standing in front of the house. Is this about owning a home/having your own place?
    No. 2 – Reminds me of the innocence of childhood. Also looks like a school photo. They don’t seem to change much – a yearly record.
    No. 3 – Acting – you. Was this your first play? Was it taken by a proud parent or teacher?
    No. 4 – Rugby – team? school or form. Boys wearing short trousers – reminded me that boys didn’t used to wear long trousers until a certain age and girls never wore trousers. I have a similar one of me in the hockey team (form). Me hating sport especially having to wear big knickers and walk past the boys!
    No. 5 – wearing long trousers. Doesn’t look the same house as in No. 1
    No. 6 – Is it the first girlfriend/the one who became your wife? 60s colour film. Reminds me of a couple of photos I had of me and boyfriends.Mum cut them in half when I stopped going out with them so it just left me. She sometimes did that with family ones.
    Mix of photos and I’m interested in why you chose them (there aren’t any of you with your sisters). Also who kept these photos. I’m guessing it was your mother as the women are usually the ones who keep the family photos. I had to go through boxes of them after my parents died and they joined the ones I’d been keeping since I got married and left home. Photos as memories – tangible objects that can be held and treasured, that remind you of how you’ve grown (and aged). A family archive a history you can relate. Moments caught in time – linear, not revealing what you were thinking at the time, posed.

    • I think I’ve answered most of your questions Catherine; but I would say that photographs allow the possibility to recapture a moment in time that was forgotten. The feelings that were invoked in the edit were not what I expected or sought.

  14. John, briefly; Old photos, I have old ones of my grandparents that look like the first one, It’s interesting that you have 3 school photos, I see that you liked dressing up from an early age! I find the other two boring- we all have them, I don’t know the people in your group shot so it is probably very exciting for you to look at it, but not for me. The last 2 are the most interesting, I think because they are from the 1970s? They have the look of photographs from when I started to become photographically aware, the color and the style – something about the door and the overhang brings me to my grandparents house and a pic I took of them standing in front. I recognize the period and I see you pre-tutu getting ready for it, but other than that its all about my own connections.

  15. I suspect there will be a selection bias in the responses. I.e. those who looked, but found little interest / connection to the photos did not add any comments. I thought on an intellectual level that I ought to feel some connection, but felt surprised that I didn’t on an emotional level. I was born in 1960, I suspect a few years after you. I find it weird that I can feel that the images probably have deep personal meaning to someone else, but don’t really connect to me, even though I can look at similar pictures related to my self and have the emotional response. I think it shows how difficuly art can be as it is very difficult (well for me, anyway) to remove the self and see things through the eyes of others. Maybe I am cold hearts, but I never saw myself like that before …

    • I’m not sure it’s possible to remove the ‘me’ the ‘self’ from how we view things. The images’ sense of connection grew as I pulled them together and even more so as I started to write about them – but I am so very much older than you! 😉

  16. I am with Jim a little on this one in that I found little connection to them and thus did not have an emotional response to them. It is, however, interesting to see how others have wanted to delve further to find a personal connection with them. My response is that they are a good example of a key function of photography which is to record and archive a time and a place. This then allows us to look back with interest upon a historical record of time past. What may have been taken as a snap shot several years ago to commemorate the here and now, has now been transformed by time into interesting evidence of a past era. With your photos we can note the type of clothes worn, hair styles, buildings, the way people respond to being photographed, and even the development of the quality (and colouring) of the photograph itself.

    • I found it surprising that people wanted to derive a narrative from a set of pictures that no-one could have had even a remote connection with.
      I’m not sure that these, or any photographs, are good as archives without some contextual narrative – the exercise was to see what viewers read into them and maybe the connection between them was too strong in this case, perhaps I should have had a wider or more disparate selection. Thanks for your support anyhow.

  17. Even though I am a wee bit younger than you John—l just squeezed into the fifties—I could relate to many of the images. Except maybe the first one. My parents emigrated from UK decades ago, and I don’t think they managed to take many of the images of my grand-parents. Sad, because now I feel a sense of loss.

    People above have mentioned memory and photography—and that is something I am interested in—at some later stage in my studies.

    Mention of the digitizing of images was interesting. My Dad—late seventies—has taken to scanning many of the images. They they were burgled {?} and the computer stolen. So what had been real was taken away.

    Because I relocated to UK a while back, all my youth images are still in SA—essentially I feel I have no history. But, I’m off there in a couple of weeks and my intention is to put that right. BTW—loved Eileen’s ‘conversation’!

    • Almost a generation younger Vicki! As I think I’ve said elsewhere my father destroyed nearly all the family photos and neg’s before he died – no-one knows why. The robbery of your father’s computer seems more tragic than the wilful destruction by my father. I hope you can retrieve some of your past in SA when you return and that it brings back happy memories.

  18. I did have an emotional response to the images. Probably like most who look back at a time when their childhood and youth were, but I think it’s a nostalgia for the apparent simplicity of life we had then, and now for the loss of youth and innocence we recognise we can no longer have.

    • As I said in the text, I don’t look backwards with any fond memories, in fact I rarely if ever look back. But if that is a warm place for you then I am happy for you. I’m with Nigel on the nostalgia front!

  19. I find it interesting that these photographs are presented first as objects and secondly as pictures.

    Let me explain that. Because you have chosen to show the borders and the thin shadow between photograph and the bed on which they rest (as well as not hiding the folds and so on), we’re invited to consider these as things that physically exist in the world rather than simply pictures as (carriers of) subject matter.

    Obviously, the plausible biography of a boy growing up is readable, too. And the growth has been mediated by different technologies.
    That narrative – of a boy growing up – relies on my reading each of these familiar, but unknown, events as captured moments. So much of the ‘story’ is built by me. I recognize these kind of photographs, so that isn’t difficult, but they are culturally specific. I’m guessing a boy of the same age growing up in France or Ghana would hae a different-looking set of photographs (if any).

    What’s ironic for me is that people now use some special effects to make new, digital, images, look like the polaroid photograph displayed here.

  20. Having been born in the fifties, I can relate so well to these photographs and know I have the self-same ones but with different faces. The school photos, the clothes, the faded colour of the 70s(?) couple bring back so many memories. I must dig out that box of photos in the loft …….

  21. It’s interesting to read the responses. Like many others my own family album contains many such photo’s. I find myself questioning whether this is the narrative of a family ‘line’ or whether it’s an ad hoc collection of unrelated people.Not knowing you John I can’t identify whether the boy is you or indeed whether he is the same boy throughout. I don’t experience an emotional reaction other than curiosity and recognition of era but I wonder why you have chosen and presented the sequence as you have. If it is indeed a record of a single boy’s (yours?) childhood and youth I don’t understand the inclusion of the first photograph.I hope I’m not being insensitive but I find myself wondering about adoption.
    I love the way photographs lead the imagination. I’m looking forward to hearing your own take.

      • Yes it does. The sequence now speaks. Now it has an effect on me. Before the potential randomness made my thoughts far more objective. I could invent my own narrative if I chose to or not. Once someone has shared honest emotion objectivity is a thing of the past, at least for me.

  22. My gut emotional responses to images (nothing intellectual I’m afraid :))

    1. I have a few photos of people of that age group from my family although sadly, very few of my grand parents. On negative level, I often wonder if these old couples (not necessarily the ones in your photo) were happy together and how hard their lives had been considering the times they lived in.
    2. What a lovely gentle portrait. I have similar of myself looking angelic. However, I do remember being scared of the photographer who came to the house.
    3. This one fills me with dread of being made to perform in front of other people. I hope the boy was enjoying himself 🙂
    4. When I was at school, we didn’t have sports team pictures taken. No idea why. It’s a shame as I was a good athlete in my youth and it would have been nice to have visual memories of that.
    5. This one makes me smile as we have very similar ones of my husband with similar hair style and attitude of pose.
    6. This takes the biscuit! The woman is so similar to how I looked at that age, long dark hair parted in the middle and wearing loon pants/bell bottoms. It was a very happy and exciting time of my life :). I’m assuming the couple are boyfriend and girlfriend.

  23. I’m looking at this set for clues about you, clues about me (same age group), fashions and other cultural clues, and feeling nostalgia for black and white film.

    Be interested to know how much selecting you did? I’ve got an envelope with about half a dozen photos similar to this that I keep stashed away, and they’ve got worn edges just like these, with the marks on the corners where they’ve been pulled from the albums – which long since got thrown away. I hang onto them because they’re part of my identity, along with a few old passport photos of significant people. They’re also quite nice touchable objects with a sense of history about them.

    Back to your set, somebody in a previous comment mentioned the fact that you’ld kept the borders around your photos when you uploaded them. I don’t know if it was intentional, but I think that’s quite an important part of what they are. Also the fact they’re all posed, everybody is looking straight at the camera – this is a stages of life set that stops at 1980 – is that deliberate? Does history begin 30 years ago, pre-Thatcher?

    • The edit was difficult, so many different directions as I say in the added text, some happier, some less so.
      I remember taking this young lady to the picket lines when the first miners strike sent pickets to the power station in Bedford, so I wonder if history finished pre-Thatcher!

  24. Just a thought on image 1. The couple do not appear comfortable having their photograph taken. The man’s hands hang limply at his side, the woman’s hands are together in a rather tense pose. The image speaks to me about our changing relationship to photography – compare this photograph with any of millions on faceboook

  25. I agree with the very first piece of feedback – but I shall return and read the rest!

    Interestingly, I was looking at my own version of these images,yesterday when I was selecting photographs to scan ready to post on Facebook. The emotions triggered by that activity are exactly the same I experienced when looking at your collection. As well as emotions, your images also led me to recall stories and events suggested by the photographs.

    What I imagine you have here is the basis of some ‘visual history’ work, which I guess is ‘documentary’ by another name. As a storyteller, as well as a photographer, I can connect with images as the framework upon which to hang narrative. In fact, that is a method of learning stories for telling: seeing the whole piece in ‘story board’ form.

    Thanks for asking us to be involved in your work – Rob

    • And thank you for your comments Rob, much appreciated. I have a facebook account but haven’t portrayed my past in it. It is part of ‘a’ history, incredibly bias one one-sided. I’m sure my mother has a completely different story to tell.

  26. Hi I didnt read yr comments underneath as the font is very small & hurts my eyes… so just immediate personal responses.
    photo2 made me feel very sad for that little boy, gave me a lump in my throat… looks like a child whos trying so hard to be a good little boy & behind the eyes there seems to be a lot of pain… a hurting child with no where to go with his pain 7 not really understanding it himself. Sorry if thats you in yr happiest school photo lol!
    Photo5 has a sense of anticipation, waiting for something but is happier, there an kind of nervous inner smile about the figure.
    The final one gave me the creeps as it looks like someone i knew… ugh. I grew up on an estate just like that & have lots of photos that look just like that… clothes, flowers, houses etc it communicates a lot to me, it evokes a time & place & a community that is familiar to me.
    But i keep coming back to photo 3… i know these photos are personal to you, but not sure if they are* you, so my apologies if these comments are a bit personal, but the thing that keeps screaming out of that shot to me is a child who really wants his mum & dad (or whomever) to be pleased/proud of him & he’s trying really hard & theres a kind of tug of war btwn enjoying himself in abandon on stage & wanting to “get it right” for someone. It’s a feeling i carried a lot myself so perhaps im projecting that on to the photo rather than reading it from it. Perhaps my observations could be said of any child… perhaps not.
    For a set of “average” ‘family album’ photos, that was quite an interesting & thought provoking exercise John. thanks for the invitation to comment 🙂

    • And thanks for your thoughtful comments Charl, much appreciated. I’m sure most people have a lot of photographs with much more interesting stories to tell. And yes they were all me!

  27. Pingback: Flight time | John Umney - Documentary

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