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.