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Thursday, August 28, 2014

UNKNOWN, unknown

Acquiring old photos at antique stores is a little like Triage.

I remember learning the meaning of the word "Triage" when I was in High School. I was a big fan of the television series "M*A*S*H" which featured a mobile surgical hospital during the Korean War. When new patients arrived from the battle front, the doctors and nurses immediately engaged in "Triage."

The word comes from French, and means "separating into three parts." In the hospital setting, this means determining, as quickly as possible, to which category the patient belongs.

1. those who do not need immediate help.
2. those who can be helped.
3. those who cannot be helped.

Those who can be helped are taken for immediate attention. Those who cannot be helped must be left behind, or left for the lowest priority of attention.

Photographs in antique shops have to be treated like patients in a Triage setting. Those which have the best chance to be "helped" are the ones which bear the most identifying information; names, dates, location. Many bear a studio stamp on the matte which provides a location. Some photos may offer extra clues besides the names and dates, such as "this is Aunt Mildred's eldest son." These are the photos I add to my collection, and work to reunite with their existing family.

Of course, the majority of photos in antique shops have no identifying information at all. Some lovely face that was adored by someone. A portrait that was the object of someone's fond recollection. But now there is no way to know who the person was. Without the identification included, that person is now anonymous, and cannot be helped. Regrettably, those photos have to be left behind.

This small oval portrait was found between the pages of a book, and was shared with me by a follower of this blog. Had I seen this image in a shop, I would have put it back into the box and moved on. According to the person who found it, there are no identifying marks. The photo was trimmed into a roughly oval shape, perhaps to fit into a locket.

He seems to be a dapper fellow, and was clearly loved by someone. Perhaps someone will see it here and recognize the man. It would be a miracle, but I think that is his only hope.

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