This photograph fascinates me. Taken in 1936, it is a studio portrait of my mother, age 8, and one of her brothers, age 12. Like all old photos it evokes a far-away time and place.
My grandparents were both from families that were poor before the Depression so 1936 must have been a tough time for them. Yet, they paid for a studio portrait sitting. I wonder what made that a priority for them at that time. I notice the absence of my mother’s oldest brother from the photo, He would have been 17 at the time; not yet off to the war and so probably still living at home. I wonder why he is out of the picture.
The subjects are children who knew nothing of the paths their lives would follow. With the benefit of hindsight, as well as personal & collective memory, I know a good deal about the arc of their lives but it would be years before this would begin to be reflected in their eyes and expressions. And yet there is something enigmatic in their faces. Is Paul’s expression confrontational? Or am I projecting into his young eyes the characteristics of the man he would become? Is Shannon’s expression mature and a little amused? She was all of 8 at the time.
More than anything I would describe their expressions as ‘knowing’. Perhaps there was some drama about the missing brother. Perhaps they only knew they were tired of sitting for this photographer in their ‘Sunday-go-to-meeting’ clothes.
If any children’s theater groups wants to do a production of ‘The Glass Menagerie’ or ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ I think this would be a terrific publicity photo.