On the Rhetorics of Nostalgia
Woman on BicycleWoman Pointing at WatchMan Holding Child on Beach

My uniquely personal affections toward it aside, the snapshot of my father possesses a certain charm just by virtue of being old. Like any other photograph that has survived thirty plus years, it bears the hallmarks of its age: a yellowy tone, the white border distinctive to old film prints, and a certain grainy, analog warmth. In part owing to these age markers, vintage photographs have curious retro appeal, even when the photos are of total strangers. I recently witnessed a demonstration of this at a flea market in West Hollywood, where a small crowd of market-goers was voraciously digging through giant tubs of old random pictures for sale. The photographs were, by and large, poorly composed snapshots that recorded unremarkable moments of random lives, and yet this was part of their allure. Regardless of our relation to the subject matter, vintage snapshots seem to provoke a vaguely haunting sense of innocence lost, a wistful longing for the one thing that is always irrecoverable: time. In other words, they make us nostalgic.