A Picture of a Picture

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”- Dorothea Lange

I love photographs. They give us the ability to peer into people’s lives, into that instant that their life is captured on to a chosen medium. All we can do, after that, is to contemplate the details and imagine what life was like during that time.

This particular portrait was taken in 1905. You will notice, first, that the family sits in their Sunday best and that this photo was staged to capture their most prized possessions. You will not see a home on display here, but a well constructed straw barn on the right. Take notice of the way the limbs of the trees were cut to support the weight of the sod structure and the layers of straw that were compressed into that space. You will see a large herd of cattle in the middle and may not truly comprehend the labor required to feed all of those hungry mouths. (Take a moment to imagine it). Your eyes might not even notice the dark figures of the two draft horses on the left. These were their work horses. The ones that pulled the cultivators, seeders, rakes and other farm implements. These horses performed all of the arduous tasks on the farm, always with a man behind them, encouraging them on.

If you are like me, your sight will be drawn to the front, specifically to the boy sitting bareback on the horse. And yes, that is a gun he is holding. How old can he be? (Take a guess.) He looks so comfortable with his rifle that it leads me to believe that he all ready knows how to use it. Notice how the barrel is pointed down, proper, just like his papa had taught him.

Of course we cannot neglect the buck on the left, the family pet. If you look closely, you can see he is wearing a collar. The boy, and the father, are looking at him through the corners of their eyes.The father has shaken the leash he holds in his hand to grab the buck’s attention and to make sure that his face is turned and is visible in the photo.

I have to applaud them for the effort they invested into capturing this moment, this instant in time. I have spent hours combing over the details in this photo. It forced me to research how homesteads survived in the early 1900’s and the hardships they faced. It has taught me one thing – how luxurious our lives are now, in comparison.

Now, nature enthusiasts, can you tell me what season this photo was taken in?

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23 thoughts on “A Picture of a Picture

  1. How cool that you studied and shared what you found in this photo! I didn’t notice the draft horses, or that the buck wore a collar. I would have guessed spring or fall, just from the surrounding natural elements, I suppose. I know nothing about deer antlers. Looks cooler than the height of summer, too warm for winter, judging by the clothes they wear, although Sunday best was the same most seasons I would think. This is a proud photo, perhaps taken for their family somewhere else to see what they have accomplished (all those cattle!) as well as for posterity. Thank you.
    (thanks to mbristow625 for shedding some light on why people didn’t smile in old photos.)

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    1. Your welcome 😊 I have to tell you that you helped inspire me to do this. Your site was one of the first I came across that had beautiful images with words/stories thrown in. So thank you ☺

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    1. Thank you Clare☺The velvet on the antlers told me it was spring, but upon further investigating, this fact may only be true in Canada. Apparently areas that have warmer climates year round do not necessitate the need for shedding antlers.

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  2. hello, honest. What a great post and photo. There’s one of my mother’s family just before they leave Iceland for Nova Scotia in 1889. Boy do they all look miserable, six months of darkness and all. My sister tells me they were discouraged from smiling because that would introduce an element of levity into a dead serious event. My grandfather was a farmer in North Dakota and according to his autobiography he and his family worked pretty darn hard. We are wimps.

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    1. Thank you! I have to agree with you – we are wimps. ☺What a treasure to have – an autobiography of your grandfather, a legacy to your lineage. I see you have added a wonderful photo to your gravator, a new addition? Your dedication to replacing the missing manuals must be paying off ☺

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  3. Truly an amazing photo and interesting information. I use this technique with my students when we study history. The visual is so stimulating. Love the buck! My reaction was …what the hey? think of keeping it like a pet…perhaps it was exotic to homestead settlers?

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