Found photos and a glimpse of 1932

We have been taken to task too many times for our love of found photographs. For some, rescuing photo albums and individual images from junk shops and car boot sales is the equivalent of peeking thorough net curtained windows and gazing at the inhabitants. But what is the problem? Is it better that these discarded images and albums are cherished and a source of creative inspiration or that they are just rubbish and discarded? To us the answer is clear and so the pile of old albums in TheBigForest hut grows taller and found photos remain a source of pleasure and creative contemplation.

A particular favourite found photo album has as frontispiece a map of Wales, Barmouth Bay, prepared for the Co-operative Holidays Association. On the back page is an itinerary, dated in fountain pen 1932. This isn’t a beach holiday. Monday: The Abergwynat Valley and the Creigenen Lakes 12 Miles. Tuesday: Ascent of Diphwys (pr. Diffoos) 14 Miles and so it goes on …with days off on Wednesday and also Sunday when there will be a collection at  evening service for the Fresh Air Funds of London and the Association for Free Holiday for Poor Folk.

The itinerary is illustrated by a photographic narrative; blurred, bleached, evocative images at first of formal posed groups but gradually showing relaxed clusters of people sprawled, laughing as the hikers get to know each other against a backdrop of mountains and the enjoyable (I assume!) slog of 14 miles a day.

And the final images show the farewell, faces framed by the window of a third class carriage window.

For me one of the pleasures is a close study of the backgrounds, unexpected detail – adverts, steam trains, trucks and leather suitcases. I didn’t expect to match any of the 1932 photographs with modern Barmouth but I was wrong, the house on the hill, the large Victorian houses and what looks like a school all remain from the image taken on the station platform.

But back to Barmouth 1932. It’s a perfect narrative, young people enjoying a holiday and the ‘snapshot album’ has remained in a beautiful condition, the images fresh, undamaged, which surely demonstrates this was a cherished memory for the original owner.

We don’t know the people who are shown in the photos but we keep the album safe and enjoy the beauty of the slightly blurred and haphazardly framed images of a walking party in Wales, Summer 1932.

About TheBigForest

TheBigForest. A silly artist maker creating in felt and paper construction. Like us on Facebook: TheBigForest. Find us at Twitter : twitter/TheBigForestuk


  1. Sinclair 3168

    Very much enjoyed this, thank you. The hat with the feather! Wish there were more of those around nowadays…

    • Its all rather wonderful isn’t it. I’ve plenty more ‘found photos’, and I really need to get round to publishing another post about them as they should be shared and talked about.

  2. Mr Mole

    Saving lost photos is a great thing to do, I like to speculate about the people in them, names, jobs and so on.

    • Thanks for the comment Mike. Yes we agree, I was surprised that some folks (a minority) felt so strongly that it was wrong. The albums give us both pleasure and creative inspiration and, as you say, its a great pass time to speculate and even create stories about the people in the photos…

  3. I also love looking at old photos. I like to imagine who they are and what their lives were like.

  4. I also love old photographs but so far I’ve been able to resist collecting them. I already have too many collections and really, really shouldn’t start another. When I’m antiquing I spend a long time pouring through boxes of portraits and snapshots. But my absolute favorite type of old photo now is the group portrait — you know, when 20 or more people line up in front of their school to capture “class of 1932.” Awesome.

    • Thanks for commenting. Yes group shots are so interesting. Ive got a couple in my collection, a school cricket team from the 30’s and one that looks like a training or work event in the 1950’s. If you look closely you can see the folk that are really not enjoying it!

      • I also like the idea of having framed portraits around the house — instant ancestors. And mixing “found” photos with old family photos. The danger would be that your children/grandchildren would think they really were family photos. Might be confusing later.

  5. Witchmountain

    What fantastic pictures! I have a collection of old postcards from the 1900s and love wondering about the people who sent them. Your group of walkers look like an interesting bunch :o)

    • Thanks! When scanning the images I realised its the sequence and narrative over the holiday that is interesting rather than just individual images. The photos of what I assume was the Wednesday off where they are all siting around on deckchairs with tea and cake laughing gives the impression them must have been a group of ‘party people’!

  6. Thank you for sharing these. I collect albums and boxes of abandoned photos too. It’s amazing the stories that you can imagine.These are good.

    • You are so right about the stories. One of our albums shows a family history and gradually we have pieced together a story, two young people marry and set up a modest home, children born in the 20’s, army service for one of them, a new large family home built in the early 50’s, one child emmigrates to Australia and returns to a big party years later, the other marries in the mid 1950’s and has children, the final images are taken in the mid 1960’s with the (now grand-)mother showing off her garden during a visit from her extended family.

      The other fascination is the photographs as images, some are very beautiful and I will assemble a few favourites to share in another blog post soon.

      Thanks for commenting.

  7. That’s brilliant! I love that sort of thing, what a good find.

  8. annperrin

    Love it…keep up the good work

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