Father & Sons in Overalls




This snapshot is small, measuring 1 3/4" x 2 5/8". The image area itself is only 1 1/2" x 2 5/16", making it so tiny that it's difficult to see without some sort of magnification. Regardless of its size, it is like many of the photographs I collect in that it only came to life for me after it was scanned and enlarged. By enlarging these images, I'm attempting to winkle some tidbit of information from their obscure corners, hoping to see a detail such as a garment label or maker's button more clearly, or maybe read the copy on a manufacturer's sign. The exercise is often a fool's errand, as was the case with this snapshot, but occasionally I find a detail that affects my interpretation of an image. The task is compulsive, and there are moments when I think I might prefer the digital files to the images themselves.

As I was scanning this snapshot a few years ago, I entitled the file 'Father & Sons in Overalls'. I haven't spent much time with the actual photograph since that moment, but last week as I was going through my collection it caught my attention and I set it aside. I think the title I chose exposes a dichotomy regarding the interpretation of anonymous photographs: there's the circumstances of the time in which the image was captured, but then there's how it is understood by us today, after it's been rescued from the dustbin of time. The 'truths' these images hold might not actually matter as our contemporary use of them has less to do with their veracity and more to do with our current circumstances: there's always a subtext to the reason we've chosen to engage with a particular image.

I was carrying my newborn son around in a Baby Bj√∂rn when I rescued this image from time's dustbin, and that has as much to do with my naming of the snapshot as its implied narrative. There is no way of knowing if the man in this picture is the boy's father, uncle, family friend - I don't even know if the boys are related to each other. Regardless, the image said something to me about fatherhood, and my commitment to my son and family, so until  proven otherwise, the snapshot will remain entitled "Father & Sons in Overalls."