Today is my great great aunt Saima‘s birthday. She would be 119 if people lived forever. I was almost twenty years late to ever meet her, but she’s kind of my favourite relative anyway. When I was little my mother used to tell me stories of Saima’s long hair and how she sometimes got to brush it. I was growing my hair back then, but even at waist length it didn’t come close to being as long as Saima’s.
In 2008 my grandmother gave me a large photo album so that I could reuse the cover leather in some bookbinding project of mine. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I first saw the album. The covers are probably cow hide, all scratched and worn and boring as hell. The word “Amatör”, amateur, is gilded on the cover as well as the signature of Saima’s husband Emil. No way in the world I would destroy any of that or throw away the photos like my grandmother suggested. To me old photos of strangers are better than fairytales. Browsing the album with my mother helped me put a name to some faces and places, but most remain unknown. Emil is quite a mystery himself. He must’ve been around and taking photos by 1916 at the latest as that’s when my grandmother was born and she’s in some of the photos. The earliest date I could find on the photos was 1912, but that doesn’t tell much as only two or three photos of almost 400 are dated. The latest date was 1922, but I believe it’s not the last of Emil’s photos. Emil died when he had been married to Saima for only a relatively short period of time. In 1939 he definitely wasn’t alive anymore, but that still leaves big gaps in the timeline. Sadly this is the most accurate information I’ve been able to get so far. If my aunts are reading this, feel free to tell me more. Until new information is sent to my general direction, I’m happy to hang on to my own fairytale interpretation of the photos.
As I already said in the beginning, I will be posting new photos three times a week (Mon-Wed-Fri), one album page at a time. I won’t be touching Emil’s work and adjusting contrasts or anything like that; I try to show you the photos just as they are. Emil was an amateur photographer, but I think there are some amazing shots in his album. I guess being an amateur photographer was a bit different back in 1910-1920s than it is now. It warms my heart to think of Emil dragging his camera equipment from city to city, shooting landscapes, people, dogs, everyday life. It’s a nice change to those formal photos taken by Photo Atelier Klein or whoever.
If you’re up for spending most of this year browsing old photos with me, Emil’s is the place to go. Hopefully things will soon become a bit more active here at Paperiaarre too. Since I last wrote you I’ve had a water damage scare (my upstairs neighbours let a bathtubful of water try to invade my privacy), too little sleep, too much sleep and failed attempts to study. Now I’m attempting to reply emails and make some books.