July 12, 2024

This is one of the few photos we have of my great-great-grandmother and my great-aunt Marie.

Tante Marie is about two in this photo, so I am assuming Mama Nen is about 22 years old. So this is about 1897 or 1898.

I am struck continually by their beauty. How ravishing she is, but that she has a little sadness in her face as well. She certainly endured a lot of pain.

I try to imagine what it must have been like for her in the late 19th century, to have lost her parents and been taken in by my great-grandfather and his first wife. A young girl indeed. On her deathbed, my great-grandfather’s wife, who had never had children of her own, made Papa promise to marry my great-great-grandmother (the lady in this photograph) so she would have security and a family. She was nineteen at the time, he was almost fifty.

After he married Augustine, later known as Mama Nen, he produced five children, one who died in infancy around 1895 (and of whom no name or details of its passing remain in memory), Tante Marie (they say she was so beautiful you almost couldn’t look at her), my great-grandmother Audrey later known as Mama G, Uncle Lionel (who died of food poisoning at sixteen), and my dear, dear Auntie Olga.

I have other photographs of Augustine, as an older woman; however, she is always middle-aged going towards elderly. This, this is the only photo we have of her in her most glorious ripeness, a young matron, gorgeous but I think, still a little sad.

At any rate, in those days people never smiled in photos. This photo is also heavily restored from mere fragments, so it is PRECIOUS to me in every way.

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dayo's mama, writer, web developer, orisha devotee, omo yemoja, dos aguas, apple addict, obsessive reader, sci-fi fan, blog pig, trini-bajan, book slut, second life entrepreneur, combermerian, baby mama, second life, music, music, music!

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  • What a treasure, indeed. When my mother died, the only thing I wanted was the family photo albums. The photos taken during my lifetime were not as much of interest to me as were the ones taken of those who came before me, and who were long gone by the time I was born. It's true about people not smiling in photos back then, but I wonder if it was more a result of the long exposure time needed to capture the image (imagine having to keep perfectly still and keep smiling at the same time. It would have taken quite an effort on the part of one's face muscles, to be sure!)

  • I never considered the long exposure time as a factor in the seriousness of the photographs… you're probably quite right about that. I feel the same way… I had held a large number of the old family photos for a short time. I'd scanned quite a large number of them, but the actual copies were… ahh requisitioned during recent events. o.O At any rate, the scans serve my own purposes I believe… and you're right about being more interested in the photos taken of my ancestors and relations passed on or who died when I was young. I also am lucky enough to have so many family stories stored up, I have a really strong sense of these people in my life.

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Conan Gray
349 days ago