More Than Meets the Eye - Tuesday's Tip

Photo A
(Original Images and Text, Copyright (c) 2012 Cynthia Shenette)  I have hundreds of photographs.  If you throw slides into the mix I probably have well over a thousand images.  While I'm thrilled to have so many photos I also think it's easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of images and miss information or clues some individual photos have to offer.  I didn't really look at this one all that closely until a couple of weeks ago when I posted Christmas in Poland, 1929 for Wordless Wednesday.

Look at the street scene in Photo A.  It's one of several photos I had randomly grouped together from a family I believe to be related to my grandmother's Bulak or Kowalewski family in Kepno, Poland.  I never really looked at the photo that closely before.  The actual size of the physical photo is approximately 3 1/2" x 5 1/2", a little bigger than an index card.  Small it doesn't look like much, does it?  Now zoom in.  Before I tell you what I see take a look for yourself.

I was amazed at the details of the lively scene unfolding.  Look at the business under the sign "W. Piatkowski." I was able to see several of the words clear enough to translate them: wlosow, szczotki, lalek, perfumy, panow, manikure (hair, brush, dolls, perfume, men, manicure).  See the two girls on the steps in their white jackets?  It's a beauty shop!  Check out the business to the left of the beauty shop.  I don't know what it is, but it appears to be at number 30 on the street.  The man walking on the sidewalk is carrying a cane, and there is a man leaning on the back of the car.  The car has a license plate.  There's a lamp in front of the beauty shop.  A gas lamp maybe?  A toddler with what appears to be a rake is standing just to the right of the lamp.  

Look over on the far right side of the photo.  What's going on over there? See the restaurant?  I can make out a few words: piwo, win, herbata, kawa, zimne, cieple (beer, wine, tea, coffee, cold, warm).  Do you see the man in the suit leaning out the window?  Look at the business to the immediate left of the restaurant.  The owner of the business is A. Mazur.  Can you see what's in the window?  Hats!   Apparently A. Mazur was the owner of a hat shop!

See the business to the left of the hat shop?  There's a man holding a baby.  He is standing on the stairs under the awning and a woman is standing behind him. What about the store window?  The writing on the window says "Sklad Obuwia (Composition Shoes) T. Walkowski," and there is a display of shoes on a shoe tree.  Take another look at my post, Christmas in Poland 1929.  The man in the photo is Tomasz Walkowski!  Now I know what business he is in!  Shoes!  I also know from family letters Tomasz Walkowski was fairly well off and owned several apartment buildings in Kepno.

Look at Photo B.  What do you see?  Zoom in...

Photo B
The people on the sidewalk look like one family.  Or are they?  This photo was also taken in Kepno.  Seven children!  Wow!  At least that's what I thought.  The funny thing is that other photos I have of this family only include four children. I asked my cousin Marek, who is from Poland, to take a look at the photo and see what he thought.  Not surprisingly he saw something I didn't.  Look on the first balcony above the people standing on the street.  What I thought were flowers are actually children standing on the balcony!  Marek also noticed something else that I didn't.  See the white plaque to the right of the door?  When you zoom in closer it looks as if the plaque has a Polish eagle on it.  Marek told me that plaques like that are used to identify government buildings.  He thought the children in the photo might be from a government school or orphanage.  Some of the children standing with the family group might not be part of the family!

What else does Photo B tell us?  Do you see the words Mleczarnia Kepnie? It's some kind of a dairy shop.  See the man and the two women on the balcony above Mleczarnia Kepnie?  Now look at the very top of the building with the children.  Do you know when the building was built? 1933, and probably by someone with the initials J.W.  Could W. stand for Walkowski?  Another possible lead to follow up on...

Tuesday's Tip:  Look at your photos closely and more than once. Zoom in to see the details.  Have someone else look at your photos to see if he or she sees something that you do not, and if you are not familiar with a location ask someone else who might be.   Sometimes there's more to a photo than you might initially think.   Maybe you will see something today that you didn't see yesterday!

Other Posts You Might Like:

Heritage Zen Dives In: NaBloPoMo!
Circus Girls Are "Normal" - Amanuensis Monday
Got Dissertations?  - Tuesday's Tip
The Haircut - Wordless Wednesday


Anonymous said...


Excellent tip! What I notice when I zoom in on Photo A is that the "a" in "Piatkowski" has the diacritical underneath it - which is my surname. Well, it's supposed to be my surname until my grandfather change it to Pointkouski. Very cool photos! If it was Warsaw, it might have been a relative, but I'm not sure I have any family from that town.


Cynthia Shenette said...

Donna - Thanks for the comment! When I saw the name Piatkowski I actually thought of your name, but I knew it wasn't the same. Actually, I thought it wasn't the same, but apparently it is! Thanks for letting me know. My grandfather's family is from Warsaw, so if I ever see your surname come up I will be sure to let you know!

Nancy said...

Isn't it amazing what we can see because we can scan and enlarge the photos?! Generations before us couldn't do it unless they had an enlargement made and a paper copy printed. It's wondrous! Unfortunately, Lightbox doesn't allow us to enlarge the photos enough for blog readers to see all the detail you see. It only lets us enlarge once. I wrote a post about Lightbox not long ago ( in case you want to let us view the photo larger.

Thanks for sharing your tip.

Cynthia Shenette said...

Nancy - Oops! Thanks so much for your comment! I forgot about Lightbox! I changed the setting. Take a look now!

Nancy said...

Ah, now I can see all the details. Marvelous photos. You were able to garner so much information because you could enlarge it. I noticed, too, in the second photo, that on the balcony below and to the left of the balcony with the children are a group of 3 ladies just watching. Thanks for changing the settings, Cynthia.

Jennifer said...

Great advice! I have many unidentified photos that I need to do this with.


Susan Clark said...

Fascinating. I have so few cityscapes or detailed photographs. Most of the photos are of one or two individuals in rural settings. I examine the clothes, any structures. I suppose I could identify tree species? I'm quite envious!

Cynthia Shenette said...

Nancy - Thanks again for mentioning the problem! I appreciate it!

Cynthia Shenette said...

Jennifer and Susan - Thank you for your comments!

Jennifer - Give it a try with maybe one or two to start. I'd love to read about what you discover.

Susan - I wonder if you try it with your rural setting photographs you really might see something you didn't before. Details in faces and clothing might be interesting. I wish I had the time to do this with all of my photos, but there aren't enough hours in the day...