09 February 2009

There They Were, Just A Walking Down The Street

The word prompt for the 10th Edition of Smile For The Camera is Costume? No, not as in Halloween. Costume as in dress in general; especially the distinctive style of dress of a people, class, or period. Show us that picture that you found with your family collection or purchased that shows the costumes of the rich to the not so rich, from the civil war to the psychedelic sixties.

Darrell K. Skillman, Mary D. Skillman, Maryellen Harris Skillman

Garnett, Anderson County, Kansas 1937

There they were, just a walking down the street, my grandparents and my mother. What a handsome devil my grandfather is. And my grandmother , well that dress is so...so..so "Lucy Ricardo-ish" don't you think? Actually their clothing is very typical for the time.

How this photo came into being was also very typical in small towns in Kansas. The economy at the time prevented many people from coming into photography studios to have formal portraits taken. So many photographers took to the streets with their cameras. They would take photos of people and give them their business card. When the card was presented at the studio a week later, it could be purchased for a modest price. This was called sidewalk or street photography.

In larger urban places like New York City, where there was an abundance of tourists, this was a profitable business. As you can well imagine, it was also a breeding ground for scam artists. In 1944 there was a huge problem with sidewalk photographers swindling U. S. servicemen who were on furlough in New York City.


  1. I love these street photos. They seem to really capture the individual in a way that posed photos don't

  2. I love this photo - it looks like he's whistling! I especially enjoyed the history you told of the street photography. I never knew that before - but it turns this photo into a whole story!

  3. A great photo that captures a moment in a manner that formal portraits never would, I agree with Valerie. I have quite a few of this type in my family collection from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s (in the UK), so I'm guessing that was the heyday.

    Regards, Brett

  4. Thanks Valerie, JoLyn and Brett. There is so much life to this photo. Knowing my grandfather, I'm sure he was whistling when the photo was taken.

  5. Great picture! I recognized your mom right away. Did she give you this photo?