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June 12, 2006 2:20 PM   Subscribe

Who took these photos of young girls with letters written on their foreheads, and why? via
posted by Afroblanco (49 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not usually in favor of re-posting BB, but I'm genuinely curious, and was hoping someone here could help solve the mystery.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:21 PM on June 12, 2006


That first girl has my initials.
posted by NationalKato at 2:23 PM on June 12, 2006


I think the similar noses/features are somewhat of a red herring. I like the explanation of it being some kind of tracking system for polio vaccinations.
posted by geoff. at 2:24 PM on June 12, 2006


Shouldn't this me in AskMeFi?
posted by Sprocket at 2:27 PM on June 12, 2006


...*be* in....
posted by Sprocket at 2:28 PM on June 12, 2006


For what it's worth, I support the "study of some kind" theory over the "nosejob" theory. People have done a pretty good job of refuting the "nosejob" theory, but nobody has even tried to refute the theory that it could be a study of some sort.

I don't buy into the "school pictures" theory, just because, let's face it, these are pretty crappy pictures.

Finally, what's up with these girls looking like boys? I have to admit, once someone mentioned it, I thought, "Y'know, they do kinda look like boys." Then again, kids that age tend to look pretty androgynous, so who knows?
posted by Afroblanco at 2:33 PM on June 12, 2006


I don't know who took the photos, but I'd be willing to bet the girls were in gangs...
posted by Lillitatiana at 2:40 PM on June 12, 2006


all dating from between 1959 and 1969

Wild guess: war orphans attempting to locate parents or relatives. The "forehead stamp" is a reference code that allows the subject to be identified while maintaining privacy.
posted by SPrintF at 2:41 PM on June 12, 2006



Finally, what's up with these girls looking like boys? I have to admit, once someone mentioned it, I thought, "Y'know, they do kinda look like boys." Then again, kids that age tend to look pretty androgynous, so who knows?


Young ("nice") girls in the early 60s would not have worn makeup at all, or certainly nowhere near as much as their modern counterparts, and when they did it would be for formal occasions, which the clothing seems to indicate these pictures weren't. The result would be a much more androgynous appearance to the modern eye.
posted by padraigin at 2:43 PM on June 12, 2006




they could all be jamie lee curtis.
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 2:47 PM on June 12, 2006


I don't buy into the "school pictures" theory, just because, let's face it, these are pretty crappy pictures.

At least when I went to school, "school pictures" and "crappy pictures" were synonymous. They were half a step in quality above DMV photos.
posted by Foosnark at 2:57 PM on June 12, 2006


By The Grace of God, I'm also inclined to wonder if those pics aren't connected with a categorising study of some sort and was thinking about that one you linked to.

When my dad was a kid, a scientist came to his grammar school and took photos of his and other children's heads, measured their skulls in detail, as part of doing a study on various ethnic types.

Googling this I came up with an odd/interesting site called the Disability Museum with old photos. Thought I'd throw it into the mix here.

Here's a resource, the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs .

And Digitizing Old Photographs for the Web. Possibly the website creators would have an idea?
posted by nickyskye at 2:58 PM on June 12, 2006


They're clearly models from an early lettered-forehead fetish mag.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 3:05 PM on June 12, 2006


I would guess they're a part of some sort of hazing ritual.
posted by rocketman at 3:10 PM on June 12, 2006


Maybe I'm evil, but my immediate thoughts when seeing the pics yesterday, without reading the comments, were: "why do they look so boyish" and "they look slightly retarded or at least somewhat dull".

I would say, the before and after photos at the end strengthen the study hypothesis.
posted by vertriebskonzept at 3:17 PM on June 12, 2006


If they are school pictures, what's up with the writing on the forehead? I have no idea what they could be, but they're kinda creeping me out.

Someone in the blog's comments also said that the last two pics are of the same girl and are before/after nosejob pics. But if you ask me, her nose looks even more crooked in the after pic. My vote goes to bizarre Mansonesque cult.
posted by afx237vi at 3:24 PM on June 12, 2006


Golems
posted by Smedleyman at 3:26 PM on June 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


Fascinating. I wonder if they're institutionalized.
posted by Mid at 3:37 PM on June 12, 2006


Institutionalized was my thought.
posted by glider at 3:45 PM on June 12, 2006


Look like boys? They're 12. They look like white 12 year old girls with haircuts and clothes from fifty years ago in crappy photos.
posted by funambulist at 3:46 PM on June 12, 2006


I'm voting for the cheap photographer theory myself. Take the group shot, then take a shot of the individuals with initials for identification.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:46 PM on June 12, 2006


The fourth one down has my initials!

The plot thins....
posted by sourwookie at 3:49 PM on June 12, 2006


Future projected conceptual art piece?
posted by PHINC at 4:14 PM on June 12, 2006


OMG Alien Abduction Victims! Don't you people realize what's happen . . . .
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:15 PM on June 12, 2006


innnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggggg
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:15 PM on June 12, 2006


They look older than 12. Except for one they have really clear skin. I don't see a mole in the bunch. The last one seems to have one of her images flopped.

Orphans? A study by Clairol? Transvestites photographed by a police department? Immigrants?

I think we need to see the rest of the set and get a better idea where these were purchased.
posted by ?! at 4:17 PM on June 12, 2006


I married into a family of Germans and too tell you the truth, these girls look a lot like the old photos of my in-laws. They (the in-laws) are also of Polish descent.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 4:21 PM on June 12, 2006


Future projected conceptual art piece?

It's a pretty good idea !
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:00 PM on June 12, 2006


Dilated pupils. Time frame taken. Vacant expressions. I'm going for girls who had frontal lobotomies. Worth a listen: My Frontal Lobotomy.
posted by spock at 6:00 PM on June 12, 2006


My theory is that these photographs were taken by a gigantic fucking weirdo.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:10 PM on June 12, 2006


I don't think they look like boys. They're girls in their early teens without any makeup who aren't smiling. Not smiling isn't considered very feminine.

Those stares are eerie! I'd vote for lobotomy victims patients. Except the hair and clothes don't fit with what I'd expect for the institutionalized. Are those perms that require little care once set? The clothes seem a little on the nicer side too (love the blue hat, dear), and one girl has a necklace. Or are they post-lobotomy and back living with their families?

The rest of that site is really interesting too. Thanks, Afroblanco!
posted by hydrophonic at 6:24 PM on June 12, 2006


My guess is white slavery. However, completely unrelated to my guess is this amusing anecdote I found when I failed to find anything on the Web to reinforce my guess.

After a dispute with a disco owner, Tony Sirico once warned, "I'm going to come back here and carve my initials in your forehead. You better learn a lesson, you better show me the respect I deserve."

The New York Post has a slightly different take. I don't care though. I never watch The Sopranos.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:51 PM on June 12, 2006


They were a novelty singing and dancing group, part Mousketeers, part The Shaggs, known as the Manson Family Singers. They were indentified only by the initials, and despite being very short lived they managed to rack up 83 appearences on The Dean Martin Show before imploding (Although the Manson Family Singers were at the height of their popularity, off-stage the simmering tensions between KN and JS were tearing the group apart.).
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:52 PM on June 12, 2006


I'm going for girls who had frontal lobotomies

Now that's what I call a cheap date.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:55 PM on June 12, 2006


some of the comments on that blog are way off

first of all, these girls are not unusual looking for their time ... i'm almost 49 and i should know

my guess is they would be lower middle class

second, i really don't think they were transgendered ... or lobotomized ... or part of some attempt to correlate various syndromes with facial features

third, even back then, school photographers didn't make marks on your forehead to keep track of who you were ... they would ask you your name, and write something on a piece of paper that for some odd reason had everyone's name on it

fourth, they didn't put marks on your forehead when they gave you the polio vaccine ... you got in line, they gave you the sugar cube when it was your turn and then they stamped your hand so you wouldn't get it twice

my guess is that it may have been an orphanage or school for wayward girls or an institution that took these pictures ... and those letters aren't some classification system but the girls' initials
posted by pyramid termite at 9:09 PM on June 12, 2006


I think one detail that many folks are missing is that these are not photographs - they're slides. Their intended purpose was for projecting on a screen perhaps for a crowd.

Also, the lack of profile shots and measuring (via rulers, etc.) tells me that the photographer wasn't so concerned about the size and location of facial features. Indeed, the use of an incorrect lens means that this probably wasn't any sort of scientific investigation at all.

Maybe it's a pervert's private stash? The guy could have had some job that put him around girls (school teacher, gym coach, etc.) and he happened to have a kink for the manly looking, awkward ones. Writing on their foreheads was a way to get close to them without causing alarm and the writing itself could be explained away in the same manner as the photos themselves (school project, amateur research, etc.)

And the slides? Well maybe he wanted a "hands free" way to view the photos on a large scale. Ewww.
posted by wfrgms at 9:42 PM on June 12, 2006


Future flight attendants. The letters are the codes for the airline they will work at.
posted by tellurian at 9:50 PM on June 12, 2006


*checks pyramid termite's forehead for capital letters*
posted by hydrophonic at 10:12 PM on June 12, 2006


Nope, nothing. That would've been too obvious.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:12 PM on June 12, 2006


It looks like it might be some sort of genetics study.

Many of the girls do have similar features regarding their noses, eyes, and the length of their faces.

There is a strange similarity between each girl - much more so than if one were to randomly scan a high school year book.

What bugs me is what kind of researcher would be so gauche as to write on the subjects' foreheads instead of using a scrap of paper?
posted by rougy at 10:14 PM on June 12, 2006


Interesting ideas all around.

Thanks for the links, BTGOG and nickyskye! I would totally not be surprised if this was part of some sort of mass-documentation effort to prove some now-discredited theory about genetics.

wfrgms - You make an interesting point about these images being from slides. I wonder if it has any significance. So far, it doesn't look like anybody on the original blog has picked up on that.

Another interesting element that not a lot of people have picked up on :

"Some, like the ones here have letters written on their foreheads, others have press type with their names on it affixed to either their temples or foreheads."

The only explanation I can find for this is that the subjects had the option to remain anonymous. However, what kind of study or documentation effort is conditionally anonymous? Why wouldn't all of them choose to be anonymous? And names on temples? On foreheads? WTF?

I agree, the whole thing has a slightly creepy vibe. However, I wonder if I only feel that way because I've read so many comments where people have expressed that opinion. There's really nothing outwardly sinister about these slides. Is this something that we're just projecting? Fear of the unknown, perhaps?

If the guy posted the whole set of slides, I'm willing to bet that eventually, one of the girls, or someone who knows one of the girls would eventually log in and be like, "That was me!" or "That was my sister!" However, there are some serious privacy implications about posting the photos, especially the ones that identify the girls' names.

Of course, you could also argue that there were serious privacy implications in posting these slides in the first place. Quite the dilemma.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:15 PM on June 12, 2006


There's so much strange and inconsistent about this. There are girls who are ugly, and girls who are conventionally pretty. There are girls with blank, vacant expressions, and others who have Mona Lisa smiles or plausibly neutral expressions. There are girls without make-up, and at least a couple wearing lip gloss. I'm leaning toward younger ages -- 13-15 for several. But again there are outliers. I'm sure, too, that they are all lower-middle-class, tops.

The one thing that's surprising here is that the writing isn't consistent -- not in location on the face (eyebrow height, forehead height), not in information (some have two lines), not in hand (block letters, scrawl, etc.). I did actually wonder whether the letters were written on the photographs, but "KN" for example clearly follows skin curvature.

Now, people usually identify photographs of the day by writing on the back, and slides have cardboard frames you can write on. And subjects in formal institutions have nametags or jail numbers to hold up.

I dunno. I'm leaning back toward rhinoplasty, even though they aren't good reference photos (like I had to take). Or compulsory sterilization.

the whole thing has a slightly creepy vibe

You're right, but so did a lot of things back then before the 60s when college students were finally considered adults. It's a lot like the Ivy League nudes.
posted by dhartung at 11:07 PM on June 12, 2006


they are child actors / extras for tv /film
posted by baker dave at 4:27 AM on June 13, 2006


More photos posted today.
posted by frecklefaerie at 9:33 AM on June 13, 2006


This is a sorority process.
Probably little sisters.
I can't believe no one has figured that out yet.
posted by ArsncHeart at 8:13 PM on June 13, 2006


Or maybe not.
I guess it is something to do with facial reconstruction.
My bad.
posted by ArsncHeart at 8:15 PM on June 13, 2006


rougy writes "There is a strange similarity between each girl - much more so than if one were to randomly scan a high school year book."

Not if the source was pool with low diversity, say a mennitte colony or just a bunch of people all from the same small town in the old country. I've seen that even as recently as 20 years ago where much of a small town was all related to each other because of a very large and influential orginal town family. We could sit in class at college and pick out most of the people who were from one particular small town 19 times out of 20.

rougy writes "What bugs me is what kind of researcher would be so gauche as to write on the subjects' foreheads instead of using a scrap of paper?"

This is the big mystery to me, the only thing I can think of is maybe the subjects were dead. They don't really look it but then I haven't seen a lot of dead people. ColdChef, if you're out there, care to offer an opinion?

Afroblanco writes "wfrgms - You make an interesting point about these images being from slides. I wonder if it has any significance. "

If it was part of a long term study the slides would be explained if they were Kodachromes. Cheap and archival for over 100 years with basic preservation storage techniques.
posted by Mitheral at 8:43 PM on June 13, 2006


I know this is a dead thread, but just in case, this is where I'm putting my money:

All of these people are some how related.

The nose structure, in particular, is quite consistent.

Where the nose deviates, the length of the face or the shape of the eyes rises in prominence.

It's some sort of genetic study.
posted by rougy at 10:30 PM on June 15, 2006


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