If you read this blog, you already know that I obsess about the passing of time. You know that I wish I could time travel. You know that I love antiques and Ken Burns and the Oxford Project and anything that allows me a glimpse into the past.
Now that I have discovered Google Street View, I even take trips to old neighborhoods of my past so I can "walk around" a see what those places now look like compared to years ago. Let me tell you that can be fun, but also depressing. Sometimes places look very much like they did when I was living there, like my old street and house in Stony Point, New York (but the town itself is totally different) or the house my husband and I lived in in Buffalo, NY, as newlyweds. Most of the time, however, things have changed so much, I don't recognize the neighborhood at all, or, in the worst case scenario, they don't even exist, which is the case with both of the apartment buildings I lived in as a child with my grandparents in Newark, New Jersey. Gone. Empty lots. Rubble.
The discovery of Google Street View is just one of the wonderful things I came upon when I discovered my absolute favorite, MUST VISIT EVERYDAY blog: SHORPY.
To quote from the site:
THE 100-YEAR-OLD PHOTO BLOGShorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photography blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.
The blog is run by Dave, who posts the most magnificent high resolution pictures of years gone by. I do not know any personal information about Dave, except that he has some facinating looking family members whose mid century pictures he occasionally puts up on the site.
Each day, he shares several pictures, most scanned from glass negatives. Because of this, when you click the link to view the images at their full sizes, the clarity is astounding. Often, I feel as though I am right there, standing in place, a hundred years ago, or more, in real time. I look for small details of every day life, like clothing, furniture, signs, etc. I look for things that give me an idea of what even the most mundane aspects of living were like so very long ago. The size and sharpness of the posted photos allows the viewer to linger over the images like a detective looking for clues to a crime. I do that, only I am looking for clues to the past. Is the shirt soft looking? Is that a package of gum? What did they buy in the drugstore? I am less interested in the specifics of who the people were or where the shot is taken. I want small details. I am looking for that feeling of being transported over time into the spot where the picture was shot, imagining that I am there, and the time is now. I want to capture that very moment.
My favorite shots are those that are street scenes or store interiors or average neighborhoods with average people milling around. It is those scenes that really transport me back and allow me to pretend I was truly there. Perhaps it has something to do with actually having lived a childhood in the 1950s where much evidence of the early 20th century was still very much around and a part of my everyday experience. A lot of the places I frequented as a kid in 1958 still looked as they did 50 years before, so much of this imagery takes me back to my own childhood. Like now. Think about it: many things around us now also look the same now as they did 50 years ago. And now, what was common or familiar to me in the 50s, is officially one hundred years old. Time flies, doesn't it?
Make sure to read the story about the kid, Shorpy, the namesake of the blog, who was a child laborer from Alabama in 1910, and whose picture I have put above. Check out the pictures of Shorpy taken by Lewis Wickes Hine (a photographer who took a great many wonderful pictures in the early 20th century and who sadly died in poverty, unappreciated in his last years for his great photographs) and read what little is know about this little worker.
Aside from the pleasure of the time travel experience I have when I linger over the wonderful pictures, I enjoy the comments left by people who visit the blog and who have plenty to say about the photos. The comments are almost as much fun as the pictures. And a lot of these people are doing the same as I: looking for clues to the past hidden in the details.
You can become a member of the site ( which I have been meaning to do, and will make myself do today!), which makes leaving comments easier, and also allows you to post your own pictures.
The real danger of visiting Shorpy? You can lose yourself for hours and hours, going over all the wonderful pictures archived on the site. I did that several times this past summer. I lost myself in the pictures and in time. It really is the closest thing to a time machine I have found for a long time. Hey, I think I'll go grocery shopping, circa 1964. Wonder what wonderful junk food I'll find...