Snapshots from The Past: A Series of Anonymous Stories


By Dillon Gray


Film cameras were first offered to the public in the late 1800’s. They grew in popularity with each new innovation. First came plate negatives and the iconic Brownie Camera. Then, in the early 1900’s, role film was introduced which revolutionized the photography industry. Since then, we have been recording and immortalizing memories on film, offering us windows into the past.

Recently I wandered into an antique shop in Istanbul and found a cardboard box full of old photographs dating from the early 1920’s to the mid 1990’s. All of them aged and lustfully golden, from black and white to color and every shade in between, ranging in size and shape from square to 8x10. Each one told an anonymous story from Istanbul’s past and contained a precious memory that is now inaccessible.

We collect these snapshots, scribble labels and dates on the back, and store them in shoe boxes. But, what happens when we die? What happens when those who remember the faces in the photos have passed? With no one to identify the subjects in the frame, they end up in an antique shop to be forgotten. No one wants them because no one knows who the people in the photographs are. Those whose memories they recorded no longer live to tell us their stories. The images that once told tales from the past are now voiceless.

The concept of this project is to give these images new life, a second chance to be seen, a second chance to be heard. I hope to give them a new voice and a new story, and to engage the viewer in an introspective dialogue with themselves where the photos tell a subjective and very personal narrative. Perhaps no one knows who the people are, but I hope you will see someone very familiar in yourself.