There are always folks on the street we see and think, "they must have been born old." First of all, it's a rude thought since we're all going to look wrinkly and old one day, especially if we don't apply that SPF daily. Secondly, it's obviously untrue as we all go from being screaming babies to eventually turning into adults who have all experienced a whole world of firsts. While it might sound corny, there's a reason most art centers around love as it's one of those universal experiences we can all understand.
As the decades roll past, the frowned-upon habits, customs, and expectations change but one element never does: feeling a sudden spark inside at the sight of someone else.
So you could argue that maybe nothing is more adept at bringing history alive than pictures of love- right? Aren’t the most evocative pictures and papers about past events the ones that make you feel like you’re right there, as though you can catch a whiff of all the smells from the picture? Well, most of us don’t know what it’s like to parachute onto a French beach facing certain loss (or have any memories that even come close to comparing, but if you do- a gigantic thank you) but the one relatable experience is knowing love. So let’s look at some history!
25 The Serious Portraits
This is such a great example of technology and the times dictating what love looked like back then. Since photography was very expensive and the shutter speeds required to capture a picture took much longer than today, ended up with the people looking impassive on their special days. It’s not because people didn’t smile then --that’s the same as assuming the world was in black and white because the television was (which I totally did).
The reality is that with the slow shutter speeds, it was hard to maintain a smile for long enough, especially since if it faltered, people would end up looking creepy and distorted.
24 Before Everything Happened
Thank goodness snapshots came along before candids as this picture really is a snapshot of a relationship. The descendant of this couple explains that these are their grandparents, "I never met him he passed when my Dad was 10, she passed when I was 12. They fled from [the] camps in Poland [...] the stories my Dad shared about her broke my heart. From her life in Poland, her life as a prisoner awaiting [the same fate as everyone else], her escape to America, her life as a mother, her life as a provider right down to her life as a Survivor. She's a hero."
23 When They're Just So Happy
Yes, it’ll take longer than forever to shake that depressing story off but at least we’ve got a pallet cleanser right here: this giddy couple. They look like only good times are on the horizon. The sheer radiance bouncing off them and the man’s uniform makes you think this was at the end of some bleak time when he was finally home for good and only easy times awaited. That laugh literally reaches through time and just grabs us in the best way.
22 Looking Amazing On The Reg
Want to run down to the bodega and buy a snack and a paper? That’s right, a newspaper because we’re old-timey folks who rely on print media to stay informed and just casually wear full-length fur coats to go out and about. One perk of the present is that we can use faux materials to mimic this decadent look without sending a poor mink or fox to a certain fate. But the downside is not nearly enough people look this amazing doing errands.
21 When They're Just Babies
Although it's hard to pinpoint why, this groom and bride look incredibly young together in this picture. It could be his babyface but it really reminds us of someone in the middle of their wedding, with their life together as a married couple just beginning. It may feel like the culmination of a ton of work and it absolutely is but even then, it’s hopefully just the very start of a lifelong bond. Hopefully, that’s the kind of magic these two got to share throughout their lives.
20 When Leisurewear Came With A Tie
I absolutely love the way they’re standing together: close and with the woman’s arm guarding herself a little bit as though they aren’t entirely sure of the photographer and are passively guarding something. It could be a very dazzling, fun relationship behind the exterior of stone-faced strangers. They just feel wary in the sense that they’re guarding something very precious (perhaps a new bundle of joy in the making?) and I love not knowing what exactly that is. Also, to have a family heirloom that is a picture of someone clutching pearls is so spot-on.
19 The Start Of Something Amazing
This picture reminds you of how young you really look when you’re trying to look sophisticated and older-like in school pictures when you tried too hard. Everything about her neutral expression and his slightly keeping-his-cool look just totally belays this youth and unsureness about the future, which is pretty remarkable since we have the luxury of hindsight on something like this. It must be crazy to look at this picture, knowing the couple is your grandparents and know how it all turned out.
18 So People Just Went Around Looking This Good?
This was just how people dressed to go visit a fountain? Amazing; They’re absolutely gorgeous. This photo is clearly old and with how much life and love they are filled with, you just want to believe they got the best kind of love story. And that fountain was a terrific choice of scenery for this li’l snapshot of the happy couple. Whether they asked a friend to take this or a stranger or paid someone professional, they did a great job.
17 Obviously In Love
Everything about this picture just hints that it was taken in a photo booth and that implies a whole day of fun and excitement. Once you start thinking that the way they’re pressed against each other because of the confines of a photo booth, can’t you just kind of follow them out of the booth and back into where ever they were? It then also becomes easier to smell the funnel cake they shared and the sights and sounds of whatever kind of festival they were at.
16 Old School Power Couple
Whoa, this couple looks intense. They don’t just scream “married real estate couple,” they scream, “married law couple when most women weren’t lawyers but let’s be real, she was the smartest person in the whole courtroom and he knew she was his stroke of luck and the reason for his success”. Y’know, that vibe that you can pick up on from a single photo of two well-dressed people not breaking stride for a camera taking a picture.
15 Just Good Times
This picture has all the fun that so many of the more postured, composed pictures lack. It doesn’t mean one is better than the other but this picture doesn’t seem to exist in a vacuum so much. You can just tell these two had such a great time together and start to make assumptions that they were maybe even terrific dancers. If that feels like a stretch- remember a picture tells a thousand words and a vintage picture of two people in love… that’s just a whole novella ready to be written.
14 A Very Serious Couple
This definitely fits into the category of pictures that look like the subjects knew they’d someday be figures in history or someone’s memory or the center of a family story passed down from generation to generation. The technology in cameras had clearly advanced to the point where you can take a picture in the field but those portrait-level expressions were still in vogue. This is the kind of look you adopt when you know your great grandkid is going to see it someday. It's totally respectable and a little bit scary.
13 Very Obviously Gorgeous
Oh right, I forgot some of us just happen to have obscure movie stars and starlets for our grandparents. There isn’t a legitimate reason to think these two were in any movies but obviously, if they had been, it would have been a soapy romance with a show-stopping dance number. Ideally in a castle while her disapproving father and loveless fiancee watch. And this guy is like… a pirate? A hand down at the barns? Okay, I’ll stop now.
12 Two Kids Against The World
There’s something really special and private about this picture. Obviously, this future-grandma is totally gorgeous but it’s something about the way the guy is looking into the camera that says, "Yeah I’m going to spend the rest of my life with this woman and whatever the future looks like, she’ll be in it." With this one too, it's hard to pinpoint why, but the moment just feels extra special. Also, I just love the woodsy background on this- it makes me think of cozy Christmases spent together.
11 Some Things Never Change, No Matter The Times
Either this picture is one of the oldest or it had one of the roughest roads to get to us, or maybe both. Their happiness is just so radiant and knowing what a difficult era it probably was to live in and the devotion they have, it’s like seeing an incredibly sturdy raft in the middle of a scary ocean. This is just exactly the kind of picture you want staring back at you when you turn to your family history for expectations on what love should be like.
10 The Squad's All Here
This picture looks like a bridal party from a wedding that was commuter-themed. Obviously, no one would plan a wedding to be transportation-themed but back then, it's just the way everyone dressed up? Between the older couple to the left who could be parents and the same-aged people to the right, who knows if these people are family or friends but they all look seriously sharp. And that brownstone behind them is the perfect icing on a little historical cake. Also, my favorite has to be the short man with the little swoosh of hair.
9 When Your Grandparents Were Awesome
I have no right to claim any pride from this picture and yet I totally am. Look at that grandpa, that’s the kind of grandpa who still carries you on his shoulders well into his 70’s and tells hilarious stories. And that woman next to him is no one to mess with. They had the house you wanted to go to for Thanksgiving, clearly. It’s difficult to tell how far into the twentieth century this was taken, but the hats are just impeccable.
8 Two Kids In Love
How is it that these people look so young? I know for a fact this was taken long before I was born or my parents were even born and yet I just see kids when I look at this picture. And they look so happy, as though a romantic gust of wind pushed them together, which is a story they now recant to anyone who will listen. There’s so much and energy and joy between them- it’s one of those things that never ages.
7 Ready For It All
Is the word that best describes this “dapper”? Of course, we can’t really tell who was married in these pictures and who wasn’t- besides the actual bridal portraits- and that does nothing in telling us if these couples stayed together for the rest of their lives or if another fate awaited them. It’s funny because this couple isn’t necessarily movie-star gorgeous but more the kind of inherent beauty that comes with youth, the kind of age you can’t help but look beautiful when you’re in love.
6 Clearly Having So Much Fun
This picture tells so much more of a story than a lot of these and there’s not much better than a parent (or ideally grandparents) in hippie get-up. You just can't top it. That dad in the back with the seriously wide-lapeled shirt is the best grinning grandfather to have. And his wife’s perm or equally large hairdo? Yes, please. My favorites have to be the eldest hippie son and the little daughter, who I have a feeling tease each other mercilessly.
5 A Li'l Family
If it wasn’t already ridiculous to bend through the mental gymnastics to fully understand that this young, beautiful couple in their prime is now… well, probably incredibly old or more likely, gone- what’s really crazy is that the little goober of a baby in their arms is undoubtedly an old person now. You can’t even tell if the baby will be blonde or brunette, male or female but they’re now definitely receiving a senior discount on their coffee and bagel.
4 Totally Candid
Honestly, talk about a date night. This couple is gorgeous and doesn’t even care that their picture is being taken and that this moment will be remembered for decades to come because they’re busy having so much fun. And whatever is going on with the woman’s hair and hat or maybe some kind of feather is just top-notch. We’re not forgetting the man and his suit either! Looking at him, it makes sense why you’d call someone “looking dandy”.
3 The Street Style Was Legit
I think that perhaps the best part of this picture is that this couple isn’t necessarily young. They’re definitely not old but they’re clearly not newlyweds or just a couple of kids having a fun time on Coney Island. This is a pair of very much established adults who are just so refined and going to whatever the fancy version of game night was back in the day. A straight-up party with fancy hors-d'oeuvres and drinks? Probably. They don’t strike me as going out on the town to play a game of Monopoly.
2 This Band Of Goofs
This family cracks me up and I’m pretty sure I’m laughing with them (not that we’ve met). I just love the two men bookending this as it makes it seems both couples have really unique dynamics and maybe the women are sisters who married very different men. I just feel like they shout over each other a lot and it’s intense but really fun. And the huge grin on the guy on the left is clearly a dominant trait that someone two generations down inherited.
1 Two Very Lovely Sweethearts
I mean, this is what it’s all about. What else is there besides this? They’re best friends and partners in life and that’s the home base you build a beautiful family on. It hasn’t really changed in the years since except for fewer people being excluded and hopefully families have equal shots at wonderful futures and like, that’s all there is.
We're incredibly lucky to get to peep into people’s scrapbooks we’ll never meet and know their stories a little and hopefully, live our own.