Back in the midcentury, before Instagram, Snapchat or even smartphones, people used 35mm cameras, loaded with colour film to document the monumental and the mundane moments of their lives.
They took pictures of loved ones, their holidays, their birthdays and other celebrations – they captured baby's first steps; their children at Halloween in various spooky outfits; sightseeing at National Parks across America and sunny beach holidays. They never grew tired of photographing weddings, family reunions, or office parties. Of holding hands, kissing and dancing.
Now we can see a glimpse into that past world thanks to The Anonymous Project, something that began when filmmaker Lee Shulman innocently purchased a set of 35mm Kodachrome slides on eBay, revealing anonymous family photos. He was so taken with what he calls "the emotional value of these slices of life" that he knew he had to have more.
He launched The Anonymous Project in 2017 and has since acquired around 700,000 images either by donation or via vintage sellers. He's now pulled together some highlights for a new book, Midcentury Memories, published by TASCHEN.
As noted photography critic Richard B. Woodward writes in the introduction: "It is significant – and fascinating – that in virtually every image here, photographer and subject seem to know one another. In this embracing album of humanity, no one exists in isolation. There are no strangers here."
The book unveils a curated collection of just under 300 images taken between the 1940s and '70s and offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of these anonymous subjects. The locations, dates, and the subjects may be unknown – but these shots were taken by skilled amateur photographers, and the fascinating stories they contain, are universally familiar.