Une Grand-mère Douce

photoboothFrenchGrandma 1

This photo from France depicts possibly the oldest person I have yet found in a photobooth image. This sweet grandmotherly woman has a kindly look to her eyes. There is a serenity to her that I like very much.

Around her neck is a choker, on which hangs a framed photograph of a young man. I suppose it could be a young woman, but the lack of any visible adornment, such as a hat, jewellery or decorated collar, leads me to conclude that it is not. She is wearing a printed blouse and there is also what appears to be a brooch in the vee of her coat collar. She has an understated elegance that suggests to me that she was a woman of great style in her youth.

Assuming the choker is truly black, and not just a dark colour that appears black in a monochrome print, one can also assume her coat is black. Is she in mourning? I would say this photo was taken sometime in the 1930s. Is the young man a son who died in WW1? Maybe he is a long dead husband? At her advanced age, and in this era of higher mortality than today, she must have experienced death with a frequency that we cannot now imagine.

I feel that she has experienced life’s vicissitudes with magnanimity and a sense of adventure. What must she have thought about being ushered into a curtained, dark, tiny booth to be photographed by an invisible camera?


  1. I absolutely love this one! What a romantic idea to think she’s wearing a locket photo of her husband. Behind every elder is a life full lived. Maybe it was her son too, how heart wrenching it was for her if she lost him in a war. She seems a bit confused. I can see someone telling her “Grandma, you have to look in front of you” and her replying “But where?” Haha!

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  2. I think the person is a male. I think you are correct in your assessment that it is a son, dearly departed.

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  3. I hope I don’t spoil your story by asking why you think the picture is of a man? Pictures of husbands or boyfriends were usually kept in lockets, which were shut, or locked, by a little clasp, as the name suggests. In an age of modesty they were not flaunted in the fashion we see here. I enlarged the picture a little more and there are no indications that the picture is of a man. It looks more like a woman to me, and could be the wearer’s mother, who died in a tragic accident involving a steam-driven mangle not two weeks after giving birth to her daughter in the days when photography first reached France, and mangling was just another household chore. Small children were told to keep their fingers well away from mangles on mangle day, which spurred many to put them in. Some adults did too. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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    • Totally feckin’ mad you are! Love it. Your interpretation only enhances my meagre offerings. You get 10/10 and an elephant stamp.


  4. An irrational fear of mangles has followed me throughout life. My fear stems from the warnings my Norwegian mother issued when I was a nipper. Having suffered WW2 in Nazi occupied Oslo, with the Gestapo all over the place, she managed to emerge from the years of terrror with her fear of mangles intact. She passed it on to my sisters and I, warning we would end up completely mangled if we weren’t careful. If our fingers got anywhere the dastardly machines we would be sucked in and mangled to an unrecognisable bloody pulp before we even knew it. Luckily, the only mangles I see these days are in antique shops or rusting outside old farm buildings.

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    • Phew! Thank god for mechanical obsolescence. I gave up my mater-inflicted irrational fears for Lent one year. Then I realised fear of eternal damnation was one of those fears, so I gave up Lent.

      Liked by 1 person

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