True Snapshots of Americana
By Ransom Riggs
It Books, 16.99, 384 pages
“I have an unusual hobby: I collect pictures of people I don’t know.”
Ransom Riggs started an odd hobby – collecting old snapshots from garage sales, antique shops and flea markets. Eventually having thousands in his collection, he selected those with original captions and assembled them in Talking Pictures. The snapshots are mainly from the first half of the 20th century, with some going back into the late 1800s. This collection is true Americana, a history in pictures with original captions that explain a lot. In seven chapters Riggs breaks up the collection into groups such as “Times of Trouble,” “Life During Wartime,” and “Love and Marriage.” The collection is wonderful and beautifully assembled. These pictures are funny enough to make you laugh and tragic enough to bring on tears. Not pretending to be artistic, these black-and-white snapshots are the kind of shots people take of their families and pets. A chapter called “Janet Lee” is particularly touching – fifteen snapshots of a little girl who died at age ten. This book is not without fault, however. Riggs has re-written many captions in print to be readable, but not all of them. In fact, those most difficult to decipher have no printed captions. Placing the snapshots in chronologic order would’ve also helped, especially of those from the war years.
By George Erdosh