A found photograph contracts and at the same time expands, confined to the moment of its composition while possible narratives endlessly play out in our imagination. That’s the fun: to end up accidentally in someone’s home and be allowed to speculate as an outsider, to create fictions, to fill in the blanks. Finding a photo of strangers, who are sometimes in strange positions doing strange things, reminds us that history is never simply the background against which things occur; history provides the tableaux within which people live and act as products, as well as producers, of history. We look at a found photograph from an older era and, if there’s no date-stamp, make plot-line guesses based on hairstyle, clothes, color of the shag carpet, shagginess of the shag carpet, the make of the car out the window in the driveway. Who’s President?, we wonder. What’s on Top 40? How have the people been shaped by history? Do they fit in to their times, or do they rebel? One can speculate wildly, but all speculation is tethered to the very real — and, in its own modest way, historic — stuff in the photo. The figures in found photos are redolent of an era because they’re living it, right there in front of us, their anonymity endlessly curious.
Fifty Fotos Found By Fang With Text By The Hound is a new book produced via Blurb, a print-on-demand publishing site. “Fang” and “The Hound” are the sobriquets, respectively, of Gillian McCain and James Marshall, married writers and New York City chroniclers of pop culture. McCain is probably best known as the co-author with Legs McNeil of Please Kill Me, a standard-bearer of punk rock oral history; she’s also published books of poems. Marshall, a music writer and historian, was for many years a DJ at WFMU and is co-owner of the Lakeside Lounge in Alphabet City in Manhattan. Since 2008 Marshall has been producing TheHoundBlog, a terrific resource of forgotten histories, obscure artists, and all things R&R, Blues, and R&B (and sometimes film), the seamier and less-celebrated the better.