Those Old Family Photos Gathering Dust in Your Attic May Be Worth More Than You Think

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those-old-family-photos-gathering-dust-in-your-attic-may-be-worth-more-than-you-thinkNostalgia never goes out of style. In fact, it’s so powerful that many psychologists believe it actually adds happiness to our lives. And everyone knows that vintage photos deliver potent doses of nostalgia. Old photos are like little time machines; they transport us to a beautiful place called memory. When we crack open our dusty family albums, we are taken to another time and place. Each photo reveals a soothing, sepia-toned memory. That’s why the term “retronauting” has been coined to describe the hobby of amassing and sharing old photos. (For real, it’s a thing!) For most of us, the value of old photos is personal – each image is a priceless reminder of our past. But guess what? Those old family photos gathering dust in your attic may be worth more than you think! Turns out, your vintage family snapshots may actually be considered collectibles! 

Seriously? Yes, seriously.

There’s even a name for it – vernacular photography.

Say what?

Ok, let’s break it down:

Vernacular photography is the act of capturing an image in which the subject is common or ordinary. The vernacular photographer is typically unknown or inexperienced and the vernacular photograph is taken with little concern of the end result. Despite the lack of forethought in the finished image, the shooter of the vernacular photograph is omnipresent. He or she is equipped with the knowledge of his or her surroundings: the subject, the environment, the mood, etc.

Essentially, vernacular photography describes many of the snapshots you may have around your home. When your grandfather was documenting your father growing up, snapping pictures with that trusty Kodak Brownie, he was creating vernacular photos!



And when your grandfather’s snapshots got lost, shuffled between boxes during various moves, they may have wound up in thrift shops. If they did, someone may stumble upon them. And that someone might value them as much as your family did, although for different reasons. When vintage photo collectors uncover photographic gems hidden in thrift shops, they call their discoveries “found photographs.”

In “found photography,” the individual who has claimed the neglected photograph has no prior knowledge of the photo. They are not familiar with the photographer, the subject, the environment, or the mood of the image. Found photography is the recovery of an abandoned vernacular image. The collection of vernacular photography is a conundrum: a stumper, a twister, a teaser.

Many collectors and artists love the anonymity and ambiguity of found photos. There’s something attractive about anonymous images; they enable us to fashion our own imaginative memories. Suddenly, fact doesn’t matter much. It’s up to the imagination to describe what’s happening in found photos. The viewer decides what she wants to perceive. That’s the ironic power of found photos – an anonymous snapshot may inspire feelings of familiarity and nostalgia.

Many of us have had this exact experience. You walk into an antique store, find a bin of old photos, and start perusing the jumbled stacks of anonymous faces and places. And then something catches your eye – it could be a striking face, or a quirky moment captured. Regardless, you are captivated by a stranger’s image.

Anytime you stumble upon an anonymous photograph, you may certainly have some questions. Who, what, where, when, and why are just a sprinkling of the queries you are entertaining. The mystery found in this unintentional artistry is magnetic. A snapshot can have a distinctive effect on a person. That’s exactly why those old family photos gathering dust in your attic may be worth more than you think. Someone, even an art collector, might find them and deem them priceless!

those-old-family-photos-gathering-dust-in-your-attic-may-be-worth-more-than-you-think-1About the Author: Anonymous.

The objective is simple – to transform left behind, socially static placeholders in time into an escapade exploring how one perceives without factual information. Discover the transformative power of anonymous images at Socially Static and on Instagram.


Leilani says:

August 1, 2016 at 10:44 am

I collect these and had no idea there was a name for it.


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Save Family Photos Four Instagram Feeds That Will Make You Feel Like a Time Traveler - Save Family Photos says:

September 20, 2016 at 2:40 pm

[…] favorite found photos. (If you’re curious what found photos or vernacular photos are, check out our recent blog post that details their value.) Refreshingly, this collection boasts both color and black-and-white […]


Those Old Family Photos Gathering Dust In Your Attic May Be Worth More Than You Think: Contributing Post | AncestryData says:

August 8, 2017 at 12:38 pm

[…] This is a re-post from the Save Family Photos Blog.  The original post can be found HERE […]


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