Sepia Saturday – Smile!

Sepia Sat 05-25 2013Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images.

The prompt picture this week pays tribute to the human face. And, indeed, this face invites you to spend time studying her features; looking into her eyes; wondering about her thoughts. There is nothing to distract us from her face – not even the style of her hair.

When I was trying to come up with ideas for this week’s Sepia Saturday theme, I thought about a few photographs I have with missing faces – faces that should be there, but have been forcibly removed. Faces we will not spend time contemplating.

Also this past week, Carole King became the first woman ever to win the Gerswhin Prize for Popular Song, an award given annually by the Library of Congress. Her 1971 album, Tapestry, was the background music to my late teen/early adult years. I played it over and over again, always from beginning to end.

I find that some days I still need a dose of Tapestry because there is a song there that speaks to the need of the day. Some days I need “Far Away.” Some days I need to hear that “You’ve Got a Friend.” Some days I need to find shelter “Way Over Yonder.”

And some days I really need to hear “Beautiful” – either because I don’t feel particularly beautiful or because I don’t feel like facing the day ahead. Carole encourages me with each refrain that the day will be better if I face it with a smile:

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes, you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel.

As I listened to the Tapestry album this week, it crossed my mind that the women who cut themselves out of my photographs could have used a dose of advice from Carole. And what about those stern looking matriarchs of the family? Surely they weren’t as mean as they look in the photographs I have of them.

If only they had had Carole King’s encouragement singing within ….. Smile. Show the love in your heart. Or maybe treat yourself a little better and don’t cut yourself out of the picture. You probably don’t look as bad as you think you do.

My husband’s grandmother, Lena Morales, cut herself out of photographs on several occasions. Sometimes with just a raggedy tear.

Lena missing

My grandmother Abbie replaced her face (and my cousin’s) with a big heart.


I wanted to remove myself from the photo below. I arrived at school, hair unwashed and pulled back in a headband as a last resort, only to learn that it was picture day.

You can make me get my picture taken, but you can’t make me smile.

Kathy's 5th grade class

If only “Beautiful” had been written in time to help me and my “greats” realize that a smile can be the secret to beauty – or at least to a better photograph.

Susan Nancy Hendrickson Strange2

Susan Nancy Hendrickson Strange

Cecilia Jenkins copy

Celia Jenkins Harris


“I believe happy girls are the prettiest girls.” – Audrey Hepburn

You will find many faces to contemplate at Sepia Saturday today. Go take a look.

P. S. if you read my Sepia Saturday post last week, you might recognize some of the faces from the class portrait – now two years older. Another post I could have prepared for today’s prompt!

28 thoughts on “Sepia Saturday – Smile!

  1. The face cut out with the heart shape might have been done to place into a locket, I have a couple old gold lockets with photos inside that likely came from photographs. You make me nostalgic to listen to Tapestries, somewhere here it is ready to serenade me…I have photos where my Mom was torn out of the phot by her mother in law, my father’s mother who never forgave Mom for remarrying.

    • You are right about cut outs to go in a locket. I hadn’t thought of that. But this was a little snap shot, so it would have been a small locket if that were the case. These days people can be photoshopped right out of the picture when a family breaks up. I know it has been suggested for a couple of group pictures amongst some in our family. 🙂

  2. I have some of those photos, too, Kathy; not the cut-out ones, but the old unsmiling ones. I remember questioning my father about it once — he said that lots of people had lost their teeth by then and didn’t like smiling toothless for posterity. I’d never thought about that before…and kudos to Carole King, eh?

  3. Those excisions are rather sad. In the Victorian-era portraits, nobody was ever asked to smile when visiting a photographic studio – that is purely an 20th Century construct.

    • The first one is especially sad. At least Abbie’s seems to show a sense of humor – unless it was for a locket as Pat suggested.

  4. I agree about the beauty of digital, I am the “official” photographer at most of our get togethers so I get to delete photos of me if I don’t like them, which is quite often. I have a bad habit of closing my eyes.

  5. As I read your post, the music was going around in my mind. tapestry as always been one of my favourite albums too, one of the few records I can never listen to too much. I have examples where people have been cut out by photographs being cut in half and the half with the offending person disposed of, but none like yours. Creatively destructive – if such a thing exists.

  6. Kathy, I would not cut out a face from a picture, I always say what has been has been. If it was happy keep it in memory, if not dismiss it. There is only one life and it should be as happy as possible. On many old photographs one can see women with stern or sad faces. I guess their adult, married lives must have been miserable and there was no way out for them! If one looks at today’s marriages how many fail for different reasons, it seems marriages are not made in heaven. Yours is a very interesting post for Sepia Saturday 178.

    • Thank you for your kind comments, Tatania. Everything that has happened has made us who we are and, as you say, what has been has been. I like your philosophy.

  7. As my grandmother sank into dementia she went through her albums and using a pencil eraser, obliterated certain people in photos or x’ed them out. I wish we’d gotten the albums away from her, before her condition deteriorated so badly…one of our big regrets. Also I wish I had found out what was bothering her so much about some of these people after decades had passed. Thanks for the great Carole King walk down memory lane. This was a really interesting take on the prompt.

    • How sad. It would be interesting to know what was going through her mind – what memories or feelings she had attached to those people.

  8. I can remember one time when I really upset my Mum. Aged about 12, I came across a photo of myself, full frontal naked aged about 3 running round rock pools in Cornwall, and immediately destroyed it. Mum was so upset. But I think in recent years another copy surfaced, if it surfaces again I will be proud to post it for your delight on Sepia Saturday !!

  9. “Woman’s Face” from Sepia Saturday ( I took a look) does feel both melancholy and accusing to the viewer. It makes me want desperately to lend her some hope and some consolation.

    I have known many women who cut themselves out of some photographs, or want to. Somehow women have had a particularly hard time, throughout history, in feeling beautiful or loved or valued as people. I have a picture of my great-grandmother, on my father’s side, and her expression very much resembles those of the last two women photographed in your blog. It scares me. I think of a hard, hard life dominated by the whims of men, or illness, or grief. The expressions of slaves are like that.

    You have written a thoughtful and moving blog post, and I appreciate that.

    • I don’t think it is common for men to remove themselves from a photograph. I haven’t run across any in my collection – although some former spouses may have been removed. I don’t yet know much about the last woman I pictured, but the 2nd from the last was remembered fondly, I think. She did have a hard life. When her sister died, she married her sister’s husband and raised a combined total of 17 if I remember correctly. Thank you for your kind comments!

  10. This has been an interesting theme to see what everyone found this weekend, and your post wins extra points for creativity. I don’t believe our family photos have any missing cutout faces, but lots were scribbled over by a child’s hand.

    • Well thanks, Mike! I can always use a few extra points.
      I has been fun to see what everyone has done with the theme.

  11. My mom used to do that, cutting her head off in pictures.
    Tells a lot about self-perception and her general discontent in life…
    Music is essential to our existence and Carole King is a great choice.
    Great post!!

    • A lot of women like your mom, I think. Since I’ve had Carole King on my mind this week, I found I needed another of her songs yesterday for some attitude adjustment. It was just what the doctor ordered.

  12. No cut outs in my archives, then few pictures of my mother. Digital allows us to to delete the horrors these days. Liked the way you presented this..

    • It can be nice to have an easy fix for some of our horrible pictures. Like the numerous photos of me with eyes half shut. I feel fortunate to have lots of pictures of my mom and she was a woman who always knew how to look good when photographed – her posture, the tilt of her head – always seemed perfect. Wish I had inherited that trait.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *