People Are Sharing Pics Of Life 50-100 Years Ago And They Might Put Things In A New Perspective (New Pics)
How would you describe normal, everyday life? Well, for a modern person, it’s anything from brushing their teeth to… commuting to work. Oh wait, not anymore. Coronavirus has shaken up quite a few things, and made us work from home, stay in more, keep distances and whatnot. The change is dramatic and it’s only been like two years (almost three!, o-m-g) since it first started in late 2019.
So yep, time is flying like a hadron collider, changing things beyond recognition on the way. But today would look nothing like a day 20, 50, or even 100 years ago. And we mean it. Thanks to the miscellaneous corner of Reddit “The Way We Were,” which is home to a stunning collection of old photos, scanned documents, articles, and personal anecdotes, we can all secure our seat belts and travel to the past.
The community was created back in 2012, and will celebrate its ten-year anniversary in less than a month. As of today, it had 549k time travelers, I mean devoted members who, just like us, share a fascination with things that have gone with time. Upvote your favorite pics and be sure to check out part 1 of the post right here.
My Kitty ... Harlem, NY, 1949
"Sits Down Spotted"- Crow Nation, Fort Keogh, Montana, 1881. Photo By L.A. Huffman
To find out more about the cultural and societal significance of old photos, as well as the meanings behind them, we reached out to Lisa Yaszek, a Regents Professor of Science Fiction Studies at Georgia Tech where she researches and teaches science fiction as a global language crossing centuries, continents, and cultures.
Lisa explained that old photos affect our perception of time in unique ways. They do that “by making abstract historical events visually concrete, giving us an emotional connection to eras we might not otherwise know very much about, exactly, through books or family stories. For instance, when I was looking over the photos for this article I was really taken by images of Japanese-Americans in WWII U.S. internment camps, young people protesting low wages for teachers in the Great Depression, female engineers working for the Space Race, and little kids protesting Daylight Savings Time—my own son especially appreciated that one…”
My Dad Died This Week, And I Was Going Through Photos For The Memorial Slideshow. Here Are My Parents In A Very Early 70's Kitchen, But Mostly I Really Like How They Are Looking At Each Other
A Young Woman Posing For A Studio Portrait, Kentucky, Circa 1890-1910
The professor at Georgia Tech added that all the subjects of these photos look so alive and have such a range of emotions on their faces—“from determination to silliness to fear to hope. It reminds us that historical events don’t just happen on their own—they involve real people taking real action, for better or for worse.”
She continued that old photos also remind us that people in the past led rich and complex lives, just as we do today. “For instance, we tend to assume that in the past, women were limited to work as wives and mothers, and we certainly see a number of images here celebrating women’s work in the home. But we also see women doing all sorts of work in the public sphere as well—everything from attending school graduations and working on supercomputers to taking back the streets of postwar London and bouncing drunks out of bars!”
"Cairo Mary," Bouncer At Shanghai Reds (5th And Beacon In San Pedro, Ca) Escorts A Customer To The Door. 1953
This Is My Great Aunt In Front Of Their House In Boston, 1964. The House Was Bought On A Milkman's Salary
Lisa also enjoyed the photos of everyday people aiming to look their very best from all over the world. “Whether they are wearing traditional ethnic finery to celebrate a special event or all dressed up in contemporary fashion for a night on the town,” she added. According to the professor, “It’s touching to realize that no matter how different we seem to be from each other in terms of race or class or nationality, we all want to leave a good impression for posterity!”
“And that is what old photos do best: they remind us that people in the past have had many of the same challenges and triumphs as we have, and that we can look to them for inspiration regarding how to make sense of the present and build new futures,” she concluded.
Children In A Traditional Minobashi Raincoat Going To A New Year's Event, Niigata Prefecture, Japan, 1956
An Elderly Woman Reading A Book With A Cat On Her Lap, 1944
Adelaide Springett, Who Was So Ashamed At The State Of Her Boots She Took Them Off, Stand For A Photograph In London, 1901. Photo By Horace Warner
When asked whether we tend to idolize the past and vilify the present, Lisa said that it’s true and that old photos can indeed play a part in that process. She explained: “Even as some photos help us put a personal face on big historical events, others give us very unrealistic understandings of what everyday life was really like in the past. Before the advent of digital cameras that could take and store hundreds of photos without costing users very much in terms of effort or money, photos were more expensive and difficult to create—in the 1800s, subjects had to stand still and pose to create good images; throughout the early and middle 20th century, good cameras were often complicated to master; and even when instant cameras made it easier for people to take decent photos at the drop of a hat in the 1970s, users had to have the money to purchase expensive film cartridges!”
My Great Grandmother In Her 50s Probably Taken Around The 70s Or 80s
“So, it’s no surprise that photos were often taken to document special occasions like weddings, births, and funerals rather than the minutiae of everyday life,” the Regents Professor said and added that “it’s also no surprise that since photography was associated with special events, people worked hard to present themselves in the best light possible, regardless of their real situations.”
“So ultimately, the record we have of the past tends to focus on significant milestones rather than everyday life. Oddly enough, this is exactly what we say about social media these days! So maybe the more things change, the more they really do stay the same,” Lisa wondered.