Grumpy With Doll


Germany 1930s

Here we have a seriously unamused child with, what looks to be, a brand new dolly. Her furrowed brow reminds me of an expression a disapproving, elder relative might direct towards a naughty child. Yet there is a faint trace of a smile in her pursed lips. It is as though the experience of being photographed is eliciting an automatic gesture, that she is determined not to make. The doll is looking sanguinely towards her owner’s face, hoping she is not the object of the girl’s displeasure. The way the stripes of the girl’s top and the plaid of the doll’s dress tonally harmonise, visually emphasises an emotional joining of the two actor’s in this photographic vignette.

As with any other photobooth photos, there would have been multiple photos in this strip. The others might have shown a perky, carefree, smiling child. However, this photobooth photo is the one that survived out in a world of deceased estate auctions, flea markets and online collectibles websites. A rough and tumble world, where photos as small as this one often get jammed in the bottom of a box, bent and mangled by browsers or lumped into and forgotten in a large auction lot with more desirable photos. All this leads me to think that this child’s grumpy-face was not unique to this photo at all. She had her doll. She had her day out. She was tired and wanted to go home and she DIDN’T want her photo taken in a stupid photobooth.

  1. Brett said:

    Yes, I think your last suggestion is spot on and the sense I get. And given her age I think she was probably thinking very similar words (“stupid photobooth” or “stupid photo”). Her shortened bob makes her expression more severe as well.


  2. John said:

    I think you hit this spot on in your analogy Katherine. She really does look like a tired, grumpy child that’s had enough for the day. The doll seems to have an ‘oh no, seriously?’ look to me. Photos like this make me wonder who they were, what they were like and where life took them so long ago.


  3. Quinn said:

    …..Or she just had her hair cut and was desperately unhappy with it.

    Which… I mean… that would be understandable!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hell, yes! I hadn’t thought of that particular form of torture one had to suffer in childhood – a style chosen by mum, generally the cheapest and fastest on offer, and she didn’t care what it looked like. 😣😊😊

      Liked by 1 person

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  5. elmediat said:

    Perhaps it was the haircut, a Buster Brown cut with sharp points – just no. 😀

    Could it be that she really wants to be a he ? Today’s gender awareness, makes one rethink older pieces of media. Could there be a subtext that we are now only becoming aware or are we imposing our context on their text ?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think all interpretations are valid when looking at one individual. I think we put too much emphasis on gay and lesbian interpretations of photos from earlier eras when a same sex couple sits in a photobooth together, (for example).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Mariag said:

    ! 😀
    Could it be that she really wants to be a he ?


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