Spirit pictures, faerie photos.
There were various names for these eerie snapshots – regular photographs of regular people doing absolutely regular things. These, though, had shadow images in the background – departed loved ones lurking behind chairs and curtains, tiny winged creatures hovering over heads and shoulders, clusters of wispy fairies prancing on lawns or dancing on palm fronds.
I don’t have any of them in my collection of old family photographs. I do have a photo of my great-grandparents’ home on Boylston Street that has a faint figure standing in an upper floor window, but I’m pretty certain it was my great-grandmother.
And she was no prancing fairy, I can assure you…
What I do have, though, are lots of photos of men in chairs; it seems to have been a popular pose for formal photographers in the late 1800s and early 1900s: Man in chair, either alone or with wife standing beside him (her hand on his shoulder—oftentimes her left, showing her wedding ring), his children clustered at his feet like decorations.
And casual shots, too.
Here are two of a man in a chair from my collection of old family snapshots; both are of my paternal grandfather, Gardner S. Gould.
This first photo is undated. I have no idea why a rocking chair is plunked in the middle of a tennis court, but I love his knickers, his street shoes, his coat and tie and pipe (I remember the smell of his pipe to this day). This is in the 1920s, I think.
In the second shot, he’s sitting in the afternoon sun in the back yard in Newton; his dog Beans at his feet. It’s September, 1943 (my grandmother penned the date on the back). Casual trousers, shoes and socks, sweater and tie…
We called my grandmother Da, we called him Man.
Here he is: Man in a Chair.