Splendor in the Grass


‘When family photos were snapped “en plein air”‘

Part of the pleasurable pain of downsizing is sorting through zillions, even gazillions, of family photos. Deciding which to keep, which to “gift”, which to strip from their soon-to-be-donated frames and consigned to the manilla envelopes and file folders of history.

One of the things I’ve noticed while sifting is a years-ago trend to pose hapless members of one’s family (mostly helpless babies) smack-dab in the middle of a patch of grass. I’m not sure exactly why this isn’t done so much anymore, though I’m betting that chiggers and deer ticks might have something to do with it.

Me, smack-dab in the middle of a patch of grass. Before the invention of ticks and chiggers, I’m hoping

Another photo fashion I’ve encountered repeatedly while scanning and sipping a big ole cocktail (scanning being rendered much less tedious when accompanied by bourbon) is a propensity to pose subjects with cars in the background. (Even that last photo had a car in the background, albeit a toy one.)

Look at me. In the grass: check. Car in background: double-check

Here are some more for your viewing pleasure:

Yup, grass. Yup, car

Well. I am in the grass in this one. But that’s a cat, not a car

Here’s one with the requisite car(s), but with a stylistic variation: baby in gravel, not grass

The photographer’s shadow in that last one is a nice touch, n’est-ce pas? Speaking of French, that phrase found in the subhead, “en plein air”, means, in case you don’t know already, “out in the air” or just plain “outside”. Kind of like “al fresco”, only not Italian.

Sometimes a whole extended family was lined up in front of a car

My forbears were more Swedish than French and not Italian at all, but they sure did like to put us kids outside and snap away. Maybe the light was just better?

Hmmm. Nice shot, cute kids, but that flash glare is a tad distracting

Speaking of flash, indoor photography in those days required flashbulbs, which were actual bulbs that went off with a loud pop and a blue glare so bright it left an afterimage on your retina, prompting Infant Me to try to grab it while shouting “moon moon!”

Let’s go back outside. Here’s a dandy with not only cars–but a motorcycle. And a great-aunt for good measure

Anyway. I could go on and on. But I have more sorting to do, and it’s not of fun photographs. Hint: drawers full of receipts are involved — and it’s too early for bourbon. But before I go, I did happen to find a quasi-contemporary photo of cute kids on grass:

The Child and her Cousin, plopped 50s-style in the grass. Cute enough to compensate for the lack of a car — or even a cat

Oh, and I found at least one example featuring yet another years-ago photography trend:

Kids posed in a tub. Definitely no risk of ticks or chiggers. But blackmail entirely possible

New York City. December 2019




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6 thoughts on “Splendor in the Grass

  1. Ruth Meisenheimer

    I love old pictures. It was special to have a car, and, men especially, were so proud of them. We have old family pictures of poses with cars too. My favorite one … dad (with his new 1939 Ford) sitting on the running board and me standing on it in my velvet coat, leggings, hat that tied under my chin, and wearing mittens on a string. It’s not an easy task to go through those photos, but nice to turn back time too. Loved seeing these, Alice.

    • Your comment (as always) makes perfect sense! I haven’t scanned it yet, but there is a wonderful photo of my mother as a baby sitting on her then-young mother’s lap on the grass with the rest of the family arrayed behind them — along with a Model T. You are right; going thru all those photos isn’t easy, but there are treasures in there. So glad you enjoyed these!

  2. Fun. Baby-you is a joy (as is not-baby-you!) We have so many bathtub and naked-after-bath pics of our boys, taken before we took our photos on phones. I don’t think I’d do that now. And, yes, the grass pics. And what was it about cars? Could we be less materialistic now, that we no longer pose in front of our cars. Nah!

    • I should do another post on naked-babies-after-baths. Or maybe not, since most of the babies thus pictured are still around to be embarrassed! (So glad parents still take those. I’d hate for my sibs and I to be the only ones around targeted for blackmail.) Thank you for weighing in!

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