Monday, March 22, 2010

Every Picture Tells a Story

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
~ Ansel Adams

The Internet is rich in photography. It is everywhere — in the online collections of museums and libraries and also in the handcrafted collections of photo enthusiasts.

One of my favorite places to spend time is the Shorpy Historic Photo Archive. Subscribe and every morning you will find something wonderful in your e-mail. Yesterday it was this comical scene of a group of dour old girls struggling to enjoy themselves on a beach in Sarasota, Florida, in 1941.

On another day, the photo might be a turn-of-the century street scene, the interior of an old shop or perhaps a close-up of an interesting face from long ago.

Another, very different photo collection is the one being assembled by Jonathan Harris. About a week ago I wrote about the We Feel Fine project, Harris's exploration of emotions on the Internet. But he has another project (actually several, but let's focus on one). When he turned 30 last summer, he decided to take one photo every day and post it to his Web site. Some days he posts just a photo and perhaps a brief caption. But on days like this one he writes a story about where he's been and whom he's met, and you end up wishing you had been with him.

Or, for a completely different experience, try New York Daily Photo. It's exactly what it sounds like: daily photos of life in New York City.

Other great places to explore: the photo archives of the Smithsonian Museum and the Library of Congress; the New York Public Library's digital photo collection at the Commons on Flickr; and Life magazine's photo archive on Google Images.

“All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. In this — as in other ways — they are the opposite of paintings. Paintings record what the painter remembers. Because each one of us forgets different things, a photo more than a painting may change its meaning according to who is looking at it.”
~ John Berger


  1. I love this! Have already subscribed to Shorpy, visited Jonathan Harris' site and found a wonderful photo of "my" Jefferson Market Library on New York Daily Photo, all at your suggestion. Thank you, my New York guru.

  2. Thank you! You will love Shorpy. They have B- days, but at least two or three times a week you find something that sucks you in and makes you look and look.

    Did you read about Tallcat-the-Medium on Harris's site? Such a bizarre world.

  3. I did read the Tallcat story; too hilarious. I love the casting about—"Was it a cat?...No? Was it a dog?...No? Oh, a rat, of course"—as she divines the being on the other side. I think I might take up mediuming as a sideline business.