Monday, November 05, 2007

Mystery Snapshots

In about the year 200o I was living in South London, it was a fiercely hot summer and on one particularly searing afternoon I was coming back from taking the dog for a walk when I came across a battered old suitcase lying open - seemingly forced open - on the pavement. From it, for several metres down the road were strewn about 40 or so colour photographs. By the state of some of them it would seem that they might have been there a while and been trodden on by other passers-by.

I was intrigued and gathered them up - and the suitcase. There was nothing else, just the suitcase and the photos, as if they had been tossed out of a car. Back at home I started looking through the photos but there were absolutely no clues to the identity of the people in them. In the end I took them to the police station, filled in a lost property slip and, when the however many weeks were up, I was sufficiently interested to go and see if they had been claimed and they hadn't - so they became mine.

Most of the photos appeared to be of a sailing holiday taken by a middle-aged couple and a younger man. Now, it would be disingenuous to say that the rather handsome young man in his sky blue speedos wasn't anything to do with why the photos grabbed me but there was something appealing also about the idea of trying to put some kind of story or context to them. I scanned the photos for anything that might help and was amazed to find that in all the photos of the boat - of which there a good number - not one of them showed the boat at the right angle to see its name. Also, of the photos taken on land, not one has so much as a street sign visible to indicate even what country they were in.

On top of all that there was the rather curious question of what the relationship between the three actually was. On first look it seems obvious that it is a middle-aged couple with their grown-up son. But as you spend more time looking at the photos you begin to question this a little. There is something about the positioning of one person to another, something about the way the camera is directed, about its 'gaze' that makes you begin to wonder. At first I thought I was imagining that so I handed them to the most innocent and prudish friend I have and she at first said, "don't be silly, of course its mum and dad and their son" but as she kept flicking through them and spent a little time really looking at them she too had to conceed that maybe that wasn't the whole story: that perhaps there was something odd going on.

Another strange feature of the photos is, of course, how they were found. My first assumption was simply that the suitcase had been stolen from travellers somewhere in London and that it had been dumped from a moving car once any goodies had been removed. Which, I suppose is still essentially what I think happened. But... it is strange that the photos in this 'stolen' case should look so old. The young man in particular seems to be concerned with the way he looks and the way he dresses which makes me think that he wouldn't be wearing anything too out of date - and yet the clothes in the photos are clearly from the late 80s, early 90s, some ten years before I found the photos strewn across the road in South London.

Anyway, click and enlarge and see what you think... If by putting them on the internet, by some miracle, the owners or subjects of the photos should see them I am more than willing to return the entire set to you... and of course, would love to have the mystery solved for me...

1 comment:

Ben said...

There's some writing on the ship's bell 'ZOW.....' Not sure whether it is part of a name or something else.

The cafe seems to have a French name, but some of the other architecture (around the harbour) looks more British. A cross-channel sailing trip I suppose.

As for the date, I would say definitely during the mid-late eighties. Are these all the photos you have? It's a fascinating mystery, and one that I doubt you will ever solve!

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