Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Time-traveling Sartorialist?
Did the Sartorialist (aka Scott Schuman) go back in time to shoot a young woman on a city street in 1944? At first glance I thought she was a contemporary woman decked out in vintage gear. A second look reveals others in the picture and some very old cars.

Our gal (I'm calling her Darlene because she's darling and that's such a '40s name) totally owns that look. She is wearing— with a great deal of confidence— every trendy element of the moment: pompadour hairdo, round sunglasses, tailored shirt with ruffled trim, full skirt in a tropical print, envelope clutch bag and some seriously-glam stacked peep-toe, ankle strap heels. In contrast the woman leaning against the building wears a stylish dress, wedges, clutch bag and even a snood, but she's not the one on whom we linger.

This photo just appeared on Google as I searched for something else. No credit or caption. I did a tiny bit of sleuthing and learned that Owl Drug was a California subsidiary of Rexall, with three stores in Los Angeles. I can't swear that's LA, but I bet it is. I've also decided Darlene is a young actress looking for a break. I hope she did more than end up in the chorus line or a few crowd scenes. I don't want her going back to Chillicothe, Ohio, with shattered dreams. Maybe she decided she liked life behind the bright lights and became a script girl and then a writer and then a producer...

This is the beauty of photographs. We can make up our own stories if we choose. We can pick through clues in a photo that the photographer may or may not have meant for us to find. By its nature, a photo is a nano second in time. You know Darlene will have walked past you in a flash, and you'll wish you could remember her. And now you can, for always.

The real Sartorialist was here


  1. I too, was mesmerized by this photograph and did some sleuthing too. Apparently, there was a photographer on that corner who took several other pictures of pretty young girls as they walked to work, etc. I've seen at least four now and they are all intriguing. Having a photographer on a certain corner in a big city was a phenomena of the 30's and 40's. There was one in Boston because my father's picture was taken there and then my uncle years later. Sometimes the photographer had a gimmick such as a donkey. Children would hop on and have their picture taken. I love this one and like you, found it startling lovely.

  2. Note, all three women in the picture are wearing nearly identical shoe styles.

    1. Wow! Same corner with the Owl Drug in the background? I remember when I was a kid there would be street photographers who took your picture and sold it to you. I don't remember if it was instantaneous (this was before Polaroids), but we have a few— one of my grandfather on a sidewalk in Tucson where he was later killed by a car that jumped the curb (!) and the only pix I've ever seen of my parents together (each looking in another direction— very telling). Aren't photographs amazing?

  3. Yes, same Owl Drug in the background. If I find them again, I will pass them along to you. How sad about your grandfather! I do believe there may have been Poloroids back then because I've seen films where a female photographer shoots couples in restaurants and then hands them the photograph as a souvenir. Yes, they are amazing! This one is particularly wonderful!