Join 3,518 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Photos of an Unknown Family Who Probably Owned a Liquor Store.
June 24, 2005 9:35 AM   Subscribe

Photos of an Unknown Family Who Probably Owned a Liquor Store. A series of found photographs from Houseplant Picture Studio.
posted by greasy_skillet (38 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fascinating. Great 70's decor and fashion. Apparently when they weren't sitting on a couch or playing poker or standing in front of vodka bottles, they were on vacation. The strange part is that all of their vacations seemed to involve standing in front of large civic buildings (Fresno? I dunno.)

If this is your family, I apologize. Perhaps Doestoevky's influence on Kafka's prose was the subject of conversation.
posted by kozad at 9:45 AM on June 24, 2005


I love these so much. Something about them, it just looks like it couldn't possibly be faked or reproduced on purpose, the design, the wallpaper, the rugs, the carpets, the clothing & hairstyles. Just pitch perfect.
posted by jonson at 9:45 AM on June 24, 2005


i believe very strongly that the man's name is Morty.

and i love the pics of the red-haired niece (?) revelling in her young adult sullenness.

and. and. and.

i'm a great fan of mystery family photos. buy them all the time at antique shops.
posted by RedEmma at 9:52 AM on June 24, 2005


What jonson said. Great find - I could look at these all day.
posted by 27 at 9:55 AM on June 24, 2005


I love looking at these as well, but I always feel sad that (whether due to circumstance or disinterest) some family's cherished memories end up forgotten at some flea market or antique shop.

Just reminds me that everything and everyone important to me right now will eventually be a faded memory, chuckled over by whatever passes for MeFites in 2052. Yeesh that's a downer - sorry, enjoy your weekends!
posted by jalexei at 9:58 AM on June 24, 2005


hey, all you have to do to realize the futility of getting too attached to things is go to a few estate sales. when the valued detritus of a dead someone's life is sold for pennies... well, it's poignant. but isn't it interesting that sometimes things that no longer have meaning to a family (for whatever reason) sometimes become valued for the window they offer into a cultural/collective past we all have some memory of.

i think that one of the reasons these photos offer such pleasure is their familiarity. (personally, i grew up in a house and a neighborhood rife with that spanish revival decor--it makes me feel the warm fuzzies of childhood. even though i keep thinking i smell stale cigarette smoke.)
posted by RedEmma at 10:09 AM on June 24, 2005


I really dislike this sort of thing (Found Magazine being another example). It just reeks of mockery and superiority. It's trucker hats brought down to a personal level.
posted by 4easypayments at 10:11 AM on June 24, 2005


4easypayments: I can understand that reaction, but not everyone is laughing while they're pointing. Some of us are just pointing and saying, "hey, look at this. This is neat."

Disclosure: I own and play a banjo in an irony-free context.
posted by cortex at 10:18 AM on June 24, 2005


Also, I like the distinct sense that there are multiple photographers involved. One of them is terrible at lining the camera up horiziontally (and terrible at framing in general).
posted by cortex at 10:19 AM on June 24, 2005


an excellent example
posted by cortex at 10:21 AM on June 24, 2005


There is definitely a "trucker hats" quality about it but it I disagree that it is mockery. Each of us probably has these sort of photos in our family albums (I do) and thus, there is an familiarity about it that I like.

The design freak in me loves to look at the old 60s decor as well. So very loud. But fun to see.
posted by Qubit at 10:27 AM on June 24, 2005


I can understand that reaction, but not everyone is laughing while they're pointing. Some of us are just pointing and saying, "hey, look at this. This is neat."

Exactly. There are photos quite similar to this in my own family's collection. I just have fun imagining who they are and what their story is. It's evocative, I believe is the word.
posted by jonmc at 10:28 AM on June 24, 2005


Love this. Thanks greasy_skillet. The cars, the decor, the clothing (except for the furs), look just like the people I grew up around. I would guess mid 60's to early 70's.
posted by marsha56 at 10:39 AM on June 24, 2005


it makes me feel the warm fuzzies of childhood. even though i keep thinking i smell stale cigarette smoke

My reaction exactly. Not to reveal too much of my psychology, but I am convinced that the reason I took to cigarettes like white to rice in my adolescence had absolutely nothing to do with rebellion from my strait laced non-smoking family or from peer pressure, but rather from my deep seeded memories of unconditional love (in a time of social and emotional turmoil as is teenhood) from my (by then long dead) chain smoking, alcoholic (and absolutely wonderfully spoiling) grandmother. These photos are just like the ones of her and I and her friends in this era. I say that with no absolutely not a mocking breath in my words.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:42 AM on June 24, 2005


Even though someone mentioned Fresno, I'm guessing that this family is from somewhere in the NYC metro area, probably Queens or Long Island. The young men in the pictures look a lot like my uncles in the same era.
posted by jonmc at 10:48 AM on June 24, 2005


My thoughts about why is was interesting and worthy of posting to the blue are echoed by the comments of jonmc, cortex and others. It wasn't my intent to point out these people in an ironic, mocking way and, even though the cafe press stuff is a little tacky, I hope that it wasn't the intent of the site owners either.
posted by greasy_skillet at 10:48 AM on June 24, 2005


It wasn't my intent to point out these people in an ironic, mocking way and, even though the cafe press stuff is a little tacky, I hope that it wasn't the intent of the site owners either.

My impression is that (like myself), they're story junkies. And everybody, even-no-especially people who we might write off as gauche or cheesy, has a story. And these pictures let us make up our own for them.
posted by jonmc at 10:55 AM on June 24, 2005


Not only is the subject family fascinating to me, but the color film used to take some of the pictures is quite stunning. It seems like you don't often see ordinary snapshots with this kind of color anymore.
posted by schmedeman at 11:01 AM on June 24, 2005


I really dislike this sort of thing (Found Magazine being another example). It just reeks of mockery and superiority.

4easypayments, I guess I can see your point here, but I don't see who might be mocking them.

I love this stuff because (as others have said above me) its so evocative -- and not only of our own families and experiences, but of an America that possibly never actually existed. A simpler, less ironic time, when an Instamatic Camera was the height of high-tech, and when Main Streets were filled with mom and pop operations like this one, proudly (and you can tell by the photos that they are indeed proud -- and rightly so) owned and operated by that family that lived down the street or around the corner from you.

I don't know about you, but I think a lot of us are nostalgic for that sort of idealized time when The American Dream was actually an achievable reality, and when being middle class in America actually meant that you could look forward to a comfortable middle age. I'm happy for the people in these photos -- they've worked hard, achieved something, built their dream home and raised a family -- and they clearly love one another.

The great secret is, of course, that there was really no 'simpler time' in America. I have no doubt that these people had problems much like our own -- cousin Bill there grew his hair long like a girl, he bought a VW Microbus and never seems to have a girlfriend (but we don't talk about that), Uncle George drinks a bit too much at those Friday night poker games, Uncle Walter had a stroke, and Marion wonders how her life would have been different if she'd been able to write like she wanted too, instead of being a housewife all her life. Its a struggle to keep the store going, and soon their son or a neighbor's son will be killed in Vietnam and everything will go to hell. After all, its December of 1968, and soon Disco will come (but they don't know it).

But yet, there they are, with their tidy interiors and formal dinner parties, and trips to Paris that she always dreamed of. How can we mock them? In many ways they have a life we'll never have -- a life of leisure and slow-moving information; a life where personal letters still came in the mail. They live in a time where innovation is still a novelty, and changes to society come at a pace where you have time to take them in and adapt to them before more changes come.

Superiority? No way. Their lives are, in many ways, vastly superior to mine and I'm humbled by what I know of them.
posted by anastasiav at 11:07 AM on June 24, 2005 [1 favorite]


I guess I don't understand the fascination. I don't think anybody's mocking them, and it was obviously a good post from the reaction, but I don't get it. I mean, they're family photos. Don't you people have family photo albums? My family has albums just like this, and I imagine if you somehow wound up visiting and got suckered into "looking at some pictures" and wound up being shown page after page after page of photos of people you don't know standing in front of buildings or sitting in living rooms, your eyes would glaze over and you'd pray for deliverance. But somehow when they're "found objects" on the net, they acquire a mysterious fascination... I'm not complaining or snarking, just expressing bewilderment.
posted by languagehat at 11:35 AM on June 24, 2005


You want to talk about mockery and superiority, click here. Mental illness is funny, right Xeni?
posted by keswick at 11:35 AM on June 24, 2005


Morty makes me think of Alton Brown...

languagehat: for me, it depends on the era they're from. I might be just as fascinated by your family's pictures, too...
posted by hototogisu at 11:45 AM on June 24, 2005


How beautifully said, anastasiav. Really.

Also, dear languagehat: the difference to remember is that if these were your photos, your dear Aunt Whosits would be sitting next to me, patting my knee and telling me the name of each and every person, where they stayed and how bad the food was, etc., which I would love weirdly for a while and then die to escape, just die. Disconnected from that, it can be anyone's narrative, anyone's romance. Most of the reason I'm attracted is that I loved my grandparents deeply and miss them so much still. Looking at that vacation shot, it could be own sweet, sweet grandfather's lopsided grin, with my proud grandmother like a queen beside him in her cat-eye sunglasses. So yes, it's an odd nostalgia, but I've never sneered at nostalgia's seductive power to make us yearn for what is irrevocably lost.
posted by melissa may at 12:12 PM on June 24, 2005


Good points. You had an Aunt Whosits too? Man, could she be a pain, god rest her soul...
posted by languagehat at 12:32 PM on June 24, 2005


I love yard sale photographs. I have a set of beloved ones from the 1920's.

I do feel a bit like a vulture when I pick through estate sales especially if the owner is present. Last week I found a lovely vintage alligator purse. The owner started talking wistfully about how it was her favorite opera bag. I waited until she was out of earshot and offered $2 for it.

I'm going to hell.
posted by Alison at 1:11 PM on June 24, 2005


Even though someone mentioned Fresno, I'm guessing that this family is from somewhere in the NYC metro area, probably Queens or Long Island. The young men in the pictures look a lot like my uncles in the same era.

Except look at the picture of the outside of the liquor store... there are palm trees in the background. Of course, perhaps that wasn't their liquor store....
posted by WaterSprite at 1:14 PM on June 24, 2005


i believe very strongly that the man's name is Morty.
I'm willing to throw a buck in the Mefi office pool on his name being Walt

I really dislike this sort of thing (Found Magazine being another example).
I'd point to Vice Magazine, however there is an important historical lesson to be learned here. Those who forget the fashion mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:21 PM on June 24, 2005


Is it legal to sale something with a "model" when you obviously don't have a model release?

Is it only the potential to get sued, or is it illegal? If you hang out on photog. forums, pros. are very paranoid about model releases. I wonder how that applies here.

I kind of like found photography, sometimes. But a T-Shirt with some stranger's decades old family polaroid is stupid.

But thanks for pointing it out.
posted by teece at 2:31 PM on June 24, 2005


Anastasiav's and melissa may's comments nailed it for me.

Languagehat, at the risk of sounding new-agey, in going through someone else's photographs you see how we're not all that different. They are us. (We are they? Whatever.)

I vote for California due to the terrain/foliage. Also, the site mentions picking up photos at the Goldenwest Swap Meet.
posted by deborah at 2:51 PM on June 24, 2005



posted by squalor at 4:31 PM on June 24, 2005


in going through someone else's photographs you see how we're not all that different.

Yeah, I know. I just find it interesting that the effect seems strongest when you find strangers' photographs in a discarded box, or online. I guess if I found these somewhere, I'd flip through them, smile ruefully, meditate on them for a minute, and then move on. It wouldn't occur to me to go to all the trouble of putting them online, or expect other people to be so interested. It's a bit odd to me. But I have no quarrel with it.
posted by languagehat at 5:14 PM on June 24, 2005


i believe very strongly that the man's name is Morty.

Exactly! And they look just like my relatives (of my grandparent's generation). And the couch covered in plastic--just like they all had. Great pics--I'm naming them all Morty, Milton, Ida, Bessie, Sadie, Gert, Tillie and Frieda. : >
posted by amberglow at 10:10 AM on June 25, 2005


squalor, that was the one picture that stood out for me as well. The Evil Clown motif, speechless.
posted by stbalbach at 12:05 PM on June 25, 2005


Except look at the picture of the outside of the liquor store... there are palm trees in the background. Of course, perhaps that wasn't their liquor store....

Could be Florida, aka the Sixth Bourough.
posted by jonmc at 6:14 PM on June 25, 2005


Lately, we've been having simply mondo-ultra-fabulous luck finding interesting cultural items over at the legendary Golden West Swap Meet in the city of competitive surfing and volleyball...Huntington Beach.

There's my vote. Cool post, by the way.
posted by sellout at 11:20 PM on June 25, 2005


I just find it interesting that the effect seems strongest when you find strangers' photographs in a discarded box, or online.

That's because pictures that are still in the family don't have the pathos of ones out in the wild. It only takes a generation or two to turn even oft-photographed families into nameless mysteries. These photos make me want to cry.
posted by obloquy at 4:51 PM on June 26, 2005


Even though someone mentioned Fresno, I'm guessing that this family is from somewhere in the NYC metro area, probably Queens or Long Island. The young men in the pictures look a lot like my uncles in the same era.

I checked out the Houseplant Picture Studio Blog today, and discovered that a reader had sent them current day photos of the Liquor Store in question. Its apparently at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and El Centro in Hollywood, California.
posted by anastasiav at 9:35 PM on June 26, 2005


That is so coo, anastasiav! And I win for figuring out SoCal.
posted by deborah at 3:43 PM on June 29, 2005


« Older First came the...  |  Home made F-16 Flight Simulato... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments