Monday, June 30, 2014

More fun with photos

            Since I came out of the darkroom to being a thrift store photo hunter, I have come to realize I am not alone. After reading the June 29 column, Jim Davis, director of the Louisiana Center for the Book at the State Library of Louisiana, informed me of Ransom Riggs’ “Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescuedfrom the Past” and the odd photos inside the “Miss Peregrine Peculiar Children” books.
            “I have an unusual hobby,” Riggs writes in the introduction to his book, “I collect pictures of people I don’t know.”
            The book is full of odd photos of people doing fun and unusual things — sleeping on lawn chairs, drunk in the backyard, playing outlaws with guns — but it’s the accompanying comments that make it so wonderful. There’s a man hanging from a rope beneath a cactus with the inscription, “Me, believe it or not.” Or the person with his head literally in the sand, “The ostrich himself! (Phil).” A laughing woman from 1918 stands before the quote, “Treat me rough, kid.”
            Not all are funny; some are poignant and thought-provoking, like the happy soldiers glad to return home after a tour in Vietnam.
            If you want a story with your photos, the best-selling Miss Peregrine series by Riggs mixes up fiction with photography of children in strange poses that beg for a fun description.
            “Love that book,” Davis wrote me about “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” “though Hollow City is not as good, as sequels often aren’t.”
            So now that I know there are more books out there to feed my own fascination with old photos, especially ones with crazy writings on the back, I have my reading cut out for me.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana,” both from The History Press, and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at