Snapshots of history

Robyn AustinThey say a picture is worth a thousand words – and I don’t doubt that for a minute. Take a read through – and look through – our cover story and I bet you’ll agree.

Life magazine, the second version of it, was the first all-photography U.S. news magazine and dominated the market for more than 40 years. The magazine sold more than 13.5 million copies a week at one point. People couldn’t live without those pictures. Were the images powerful enough to change history? Not necessarily. But they definitely captured snapshots of time, of significant events, of our history.

If I say, think of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s shot of a nurse in a sailor’s arms, snapped on Aug. 27, 1945, as they celebrated Victory Over Japan Day in New York City, is there a person out there who can’t visualize that photo in their mind? Not likely.

I am a big fan of photography. As a mother, of course, I take hundreds of pictures every year to eventually scrapbook. But as an observer, I am drawn to gripping images that move me to tears. Move me to think. But also enjoy photos that bring an immediate smile to my lips or a laugh in my belly. Photography is quite powerful.

I recently got my hands on anniversary compilations from two large news magazines. The subject matter: 1968. With war abroad, riots at home, fallen leaders and lunar dreams, Time magazine is calling it “The Year That Changed The World.” And here I thought it changed because I was born that year (you do the math). I figured something good had to come of that year – though I am no competition for landing on the moon!

The special publications are an emotional read. The history is incredibly interesting but the photos can tell the story, no matter how celebratory or tragic, without words. That’s why I plan to keep these “anniversary” magazines. I’m not building a collection. I don’t care about their potential worth. For me, they hold a piece of history. A snapshot of the world the year my history began.

And that’s one of the reasons people held onto their Life magazines and others. One glance and they are transported to a different time, a different place. They recall once again where they came from and see how far they’ve come.

Antique Trader would like to know if you collect something – vintage magazines, books, posters, you name it – that evokes emotion or serves as a historical reminder or a personal one? Please share them with other readers by e-mailing, or visit the Antique Trader blog, click on the Question of the Week, and post a reply there.