Whatever the reason, most of our older pictures at the Society feature people looking serious, including many from the schools. However, even among early photographs, there are some surprising moments of personality. One of our favorite school pictures was taken of the West Acton Grammar School around 1886. The photographer must have had a good rapport with the children and, very unusually, let them hold objects. There was obviously no technical difficulty in capturing their smiles.
Scanning old personal photos and examining enlarged details can yield surprises. Among the Society's collection of amateur photographer Eugene L. Hall’s glass plate photos is a portrait of his young family. On first inspection, it seemed to be of himself, his wife and a young daughter in a swing in front of a house. It wasn’t until we saw the digitized and enlarged version that we discovered a doll on Eugene’s lap and his young son balanced above them, barefoot, a contrast to the impression given by the serious expressions on their faces.
Another way to glimpse personality is through people’s early pet photos. A snapshot of Dr. Samuel, Ida, and Robert Christie and Mrs. Elmina Glines is a seemingly typical picture of a group in front of a School Street house. Closer examination showed what seemed to be a tail in front of Dr. Christie. Once we scanned it, we realized that a cat was balanced on Dr. Christie’s shoulders. We were able to discern a couple of slight smiles; now the photo has a story to tell.