Mefi Loves a Mystery, so...who are these people?
July 14, 2018 4:15 PM   Subscribe

A Goodwill slide projector came with a bonus, family pictures dating from the late 50s or early 60s. Who are these people?
posted by COD (41 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't know them but I wish I did.
posted by allthinky at 4:27 PM on July 14 [5 favorites]


Great photos, taken by someone with a good eye for detail and composition. I especially like the cars in the background of a lot of the shots. I feel like the mystery will be solved by someone who knew the two very happy-looking sisters who always dressed alike. I wonder if they still do ...
posted by Kangaroo at 4:33 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


Wonder if there’s a way to check historical car registration records from the license plates.
posted by azpenguin at 4:51 PM on July 14 [8 favorites]


#SlideBae
posted by delfin at 5:30 PM on July 14 [8 favorites]


It's a fine storytelling idea, like the old "I Found A Camera in the Woods."
posted by doctornemo at 5:33 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


The airplane on Wake Island is a Convair B-36 Peacemaker, part of the Strategic Air Command. I thought it was the subject of a recent FPP here but can't find it, this excerpt from the Jimmy Stewart movie, showing one taking off -- Six Turning, Four Burning.

Along with the photo from Nagasaki, I think this indicates the family's father was in the Air Force. Nobody except military goes to Wake.
posted by Rash at 5:40 PM on July 14 [20 favorites]


I'd also assume that father was the photographer behind all these pics.
posted by Rash at 5:49 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]


People are weird. You would think people would be grateful to get something like this, have their history restored, but I can tell you from experience this isn't always the case. I collect cabinet cards and in some cases I have been able to identify the subjects, and in rarer cases I acquire a whole family's history; parents, grandparents, children, and even houses. I can authenticate and identify the subjects and sometimes even the date the photo was taken/sold (some have a dated tax stamp, others you can get through photographer/town and photographic process).

I use findagrave.com, newspapers.com, ancestry.com, and other sites to build fairly accurate biographies and histories of many of the subjects. In a handful of cases I have been able to track down living descendants, and several times the responses have been negative. People got rid of the photos for a reason, or just don't care, or don't trust some stranger off the internet (I don't ask for anything in exchange for the photos or research). I don't know.

In some cases the historical record varies greatly from what the family's oral tradition is, and people don't want to know their great grandma moved across the country and started a new family after her first husband committed suicide. They don't want to know the grandson got a DUI and then overdosed on opioids in the 1900's. When the way you locate someone is through court records that show the person wasn't exactly upstanding.... It's happened enough times that I don't even try any more.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:18 PM on July 14 [42 favorites]


My sister has tracked people down a few times from old photos and the experiences she's had have been positive, with people really excited to see the photos. Just luck of the draw, I guess.
posted by liminal_shadows at 6:47 PM on July 14 [8 favorites]


I never had any luck finding the family of the person who took these photos in Naples, Italy in the late 1930s. It seems like a really difficult thing to accomplish, reuniting family with media created by their relatives decades on.
posted by PHINC at 7:13 PM on July 14 [3 favorites]


There are suitcases full of photos like these in every antique store in America. We are all special and beautiful.
posted by cosmologinaut at 11:25 PM on July 14 [11 favorites]


When I clicked on the link I got dragged straight to a malware site claiming I needed to update Firefox. Be careful.

Flagged.
posted by Urtylug at 1:00 AM on July 15


There are suitcases full of photos like these in every antique store in America.

And it's so hard not to buy them all.
posted by bongo_x at 2:51 AM on July 15 [10 favorites]


It's a fine storytelling idea, like the old "I Found A Camera in the Woods."

I went to see Say Something Bunny last year which is based around an audio recording of a family. It's brilliant and (astonishingly, to me anyway) still running, so if you're in New York...
posted by hoyland at 3:28 AM on July 15


I wonder what kind of camera the photographer used? Servicemen/women always seemed to have the best cameras.

I don't know why, but when I see the detritus of people's lives in junk shops, Goodwill etc it makes me very, very sad. I'm not talking about toasters or small appliances, I mean personal things. I once found years and years of handwritten letters written to this elderly woman. There was also carbon copies of letters she had written, perfectly paired with the responses . It was heartbreaking, and again I'm not sure why. But it was also interesting as all hell. I guess that's what happens when there's no one left to care. Or the family can't deal with all the crap and calls a clean out service.

I guess someday the odds and ends of all our lives will end up the same way.
posted by james33 at 4:06 AM on July 15 [7 favorites]


When the way you locate someone is through court records that show the person wasn't exactly upstanding...

And here I find myself longing for any information on my absolute asshole of a great-grandfather, twice-divorced (once for intolerable cruelty in 1928, months before the birth of my grandpa, and again in 1940 for abandonment, months before the birth of Dory, my great-half-aunt) just so I can determine which slave-owning assholes in Texas I descend from.
posted by palindromic at 4:40 AM on July 15 [4 favorites]


Unless there's a more significant reason for locating these people, I think the family's privacy might be more important than a fun mystery.
posted by davebush at 6:00 AM on July 15 [4 favorites]


I'd love to have back the old photos of my family. Since my family split up, I no longer have access to a lot of my memories. I shared this on Facebook and hope they are reunited with their memories.
posted by sio42 at 6:19 AM on July 15


Unless there's a more significant reason for locating these people, I think the family's privacy might be more important than a fun mystery.

It's akin to graverobbing.
posted by fairmettle at 6:25 AM on July 15


Baeumert says in the article she wants to return the slides to their owner. If I found a phone on the street I wouldn't 'respect the person's privacy'. I'd try to get their property back to them.
posted by haileris23 at 6:51 AM on July 15 [7 favorites]


Unless there's a more significant reason for locating these people, I think the family's privacy might be more important than a fun mystery.

Agreed. I don't really see any difference here between this and the #PlaneBae nonsense going on.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:10 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Agreed. I don't really see any difference here between this and the #PlaneBae nonsense going on.

This is decades old, that was streamed in real time. This is meaning to get mementoes to a family, that was tawdry voyeurism. I could go on, but I really think this is akin to that debacle in only the most superficial of ways if at all.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 8:26 AM on July 15 [14 favorites]


I've got a metal box of 8mm films of people who are not known to have kids. Do publication rights move with posession of the materials so that I, as the holder, have the right to digitize them and place 'em under a digital commons licence for others to use as they wish or must the estate of the person who made the films have a say?

(these people liked taking pictures of themselfs with drinks in their hands out to eat at supper clubs. Odds are with a small bit of research I could find relatives as the owner of the homestead where they came from was the same from the 1970's. Right now the conversion from 8mm to a digital format so copies could be sent around to relatives to attempt to ID is the speed bump. The re-mixing of this material by others which is otherwise considered waste is of interest but I've not really figured out how to ask the questions about how/what is legally allowable to have me decide to just trash it or to go over the speed bump of digitizing it.)
posted by rough ashlar at 8:47 AM on July 15


This is meaning to get mementoes to a family, that was tawdry voyeurism.

Why does the context change the fact that we're uploading photos and personal data of people that may or may not want them on the internet forever? The girls in the photos are smiling and happy, but as far as I can see that doesn't equate to permission.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:59 AM on July 15 [2 favorites]


If they were returned to the family and the woman shared identifying information about them then asked her twitter followers to stalk them, then it might be equivalent. What a bizarre comparison. Returning lost photos to people by asking people if they recognize the people has been done for years, and the people in question are generally glad to get great-aunt Maude's album that was thrown out by the people cleaning out the apartment.
posted by tavella at 9:09 AM on July 15


I wonder what kind of camera the photographer used? Servicemen/women always seemed to have the best cameras.

There is pronounced abberation towards the corners of the outdoors photos, and although it's not really clear if that comes from the camera or the projector it appears to be caused by the camera as it's more pronounced with objects in the corners that are outside the depth of field. This doesn't suggest an expensive camera.
posted by Stoneshop at 9:18 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Along with the photo from Nagasaki, I think this indicates the family's father was in the Air Force. Nobody except military goes to Wake.

Dad could well have been in the Airforce, but Wake was being used for commercial aviation in the 1950s, by PanAm and other airlines. The airport was put under civilian control in 1949.
posted by beagle at 9:19 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


(Commercial aviation at Wake ended in 1972.)
posted by beagle at 9:31 AM on July 15


I don't know why, but when I see the detritus of people's lives in junk shops, Goodwill etc it makes me very, very sad.

Really sad. Worse is watching people clean out someone's home and throwing shit out, even worse is having to do it yourself. I had piles of old family photos and letters from an acquaintance that passed and the few family members I could reach were absolutely not interested.
posted by bongo_x at 12:56 PM on July 15 [3 favorites]


I feel like the mystery will be solved by someone who knew the two very happy-looking sisters who always dressed alike.

I think that was fairly common. My mom and her siblings (and often their mom) all wore identical shirts and sometimes other clothes (whatever their mom had made by hand). It usually make the most sense to buy one fabric to make everyone's shirts out of. (I think Grandma mentioned that it helped to locate all her kids after a picnic too, because she knew what they were all wearing.)

Even growing up in an era of buying most clothes, my sister and I had a few sets of identical clothes, often for special events, which were photographed. (Who am I kidding, we usually had hand-me-downs. The bought identical clothing was always special.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:59 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


Baeumert says in the article she wants to return the slides to their owner. If I found a phone on the street I wouldn't 'respect the person's privacy'. I'd try to get their property back to them.

That could (and should) be attempted without posting the photos online.
posted by davebush at 5:51 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]


When I took possession of all of my family photos, my grandfather made me promise never to donate them so they're found in a Goodwill. He lived in Palm Springs where there is a ton of detritus from people's lives (Boca: New York = Palm Springs: L.A.)
posted by Sophie1 at 6:53 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]


That could (and should) be attempted without posting the photos online.

By what? Telepathy? This is by far the most likely way for someone to see and recognize the photos, or at least provide potential leads due to knowing locations et al.
posted by tavella at 7:47 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]


There is pronounced abberation towards the corners of the outdoors photos, and although it's not really clear if that comes from the camera or the projector it appears to be caused by the camera as it's more pronounced with objects in the corners that are outside the depth of field. This doesn't suggest an expensive camera.

This is from using a digital camera most likely with an auto-focus feature of some sort to photograph the slides as they are being displayed from the projector (it's an Argus brand, so the projector itself is high quality for that era) on a large screen. In order to truly appreciate the beauty of these photos, they should be scanned in a proper slide scanner in high resolution. I think these photos will be even more stunning once they are scanned the way slides should be scanned.
posted by kuppajava at 8:08 AM on July 16


By what? Telepathy?

No, not telepathy. Descriptions of the photos.

by far the most likely way for someone to see and recognize the photos

Yes, obviously, but a method that respects the family's privacy should at least be attempted first, in my opinion.
posted by davebush at 1:40 PM on July 16


Well, you've got access to as much information as the woman in question does. Feel free to use whatever magical method you have in mind to identify people you don't know with zero name information. Or you can email her to tell her your method if you think it requires access to the rest of the pictures.

Oh yes, and of course, the clock is ticking; odds are decent that some of the people in the photos are still alive, but chances are getting worse rapidly.
posted by tavella at 2:20 PM on July 16


After Truman desegregated the military they had to create unsegregated schools for military kids in the states that segregated kids by race. So, these kids might have been at a Department of Defense school in the deep south in the 1950s. (It took until the 1970s for many areas to conform to the 1954 Brown decision.)

I was a kid in 1950s and yeah, my two younger sisters and I sometimes had matching dresses that we wore on special occasions. I hated those dumb dresses.

An uncle took home movies of my cousins, my sisters, and me back then. If someone finds them, let me know. I'm the scrawny sulking dark-haired girl sneering at the camera.
posted by mareli at 2:55 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


Well, you've got access to as much information as the woman in question does. Feel free to use whatever magical method you have in mind to identify people you don't know with zero name information. Or you can email her to tell her your method if you think it requires access to the rest of the pictures.

Oh yes, and of course, the clock is ticking; odds are decent that some of the people in the photos are still alive, but chances are getting worse rapidly.


A list of each photo with descriptions, including relevant geographic information - that's my "magical" method, which isn't as effective as simply posting the photos, but does offer respect to the people in the photos. This would seem to be a respectful compromise. It's not fair to assume the family members are all OK with the way it's been done.
posted by davebush at 4:29 PM on July 16




In other words, the chosen method swiftly reunited the photos with the family, while retaining the family's privacy! Remarkable.

There seemed to be a confusion here about what can be bad about sharing photos.

Intimate photos shared anonymously = bad because the people who recognize the people will include people not part of the sexual relationship.

Innocuous photos shared with identification = bad because it can point the toxic firehose of social media at people.

Innocuous photos shared anonymously = not really a problem because the people who recognize them already have that level of relationship with the people in question and it's not the sort of information that will allow people not in that circle to find and stalk the subjects. These photos were in a *slide projector*, guys. They clearly were already curated for display to friends and family. Obviously you should still stay within the boundaries of fair use and copyright (though that can get fuzzy as the photographs get older and becomes more a question of preserving historical/social record), but when used for the purpose of reuniting people with their lost property an entirely valid and praiseworthy action.
posted by tavella at 11:44 AM on July 18


Innocuous photos shared anonymously

Only the owners and subjects of the photos can accurately label them "innocuous". A successful conclusion in this case doesn't change my mind.
posted by davebush at 9:28 AM on August 2


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