By Elizabeth Gracen:
THE FEED is a monthly series that features compelling Instagram feeds from curators across the globe. Since the inception of this series over the past year, I've interviewed unique individuals with diverse interests and passions—their creativity and visual "eye" compelling and exciting to share.
This month we feature the feed of @discoveringlostsouls.
EG: Thank you so much for talking to me about your amazing Instagram feed, @discoveringlostsouls. I’m not even sure where to begin! The account is so eclectic and mysterious. Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
JK: Even as a kid, I loved vintage aesthetics; I was an artist, and my pieces always seemed to be inspired by antique and vintage photography. When my great-grandmother passed away in 2013, I began to hoard all the old family photos I could find. I robbed photo albums and dug through totes, but there never seemed to be very many, and they weren’t very old. It was then that I realized I could actually buy other people’s photos. I had always been a collector, and not only did buying antique photos fill this family photo void, but it also inspired my drawings. Essentially, acquiring antique and vintage photography fulfilled a whole handful of needs I had at the time, and I LOVED IT!
EG: I’m always drawn to old black-and-white photos and film. Why do you think black and white holds such an aesthetic appeal?
JK: Black and white has a certain nostalgic feeling that I think everyone enjoys, but beyond that, I think black and white holds a lot of mystery. Being unable to see an image’s colors leaves room for the mind to wander; a creative mind can think up some real fantastical and surreal colors. I’ve seen it myself with some of these hand-tinted photos, those have been particularly fun to collect. The reimagining of black and white through the addition of tinting was done by all sorts of experts and amateurs since the invention of photography. As much as people love black and white, the impact of color has always been apparent in antique and vintage photography.
EG: To me, the variety of the photos you feature all have a mysterious thread that connects them. If you could put that “thread” into words, how would you describe it?
JK: When I first began collecting photographs, I didn’t necessarily know what I was looking for, but as with all sorts of things, I had to learn what it was that drew me in specifically. These days I focus most of my collection on images of people that feel real. I like to see the people in my photographs represented as I would imagine they were in their daily life. It’s the subtleties that I find make a photo, where the eyes focus, the way a subject is styled, or even the position of the body. One of my favorite images is an early 20th-century cabinet card of the High Eagle family. What I like about this particular photo is their hands, the way each one is different in its wrinkles and veins and rolls. Maybe it’s a little strange, but something about these hands feels so familiar and welcoming.
EG: Do these photos represent a hobby to you, or is there something deeper, more important that you think can be discovered from these images? Do you think it’s important for us to look back and examine the past? Is there value in that looking back?
JK: I started collecting for very personal reasons, so I’m not sure it’s ever really been just a hobby. While that mindset might make it easier on me, it’s especially hard to separate feelings when I’m surrounded by thousands of photos of real people. Especially as my collection has grown, it only continues to become a larger part of me. I never saw myself in old photos, and I never saw my family in them either, because those photos don’t exist. These photos are my family in many ways.
I’d be lying, however, if I said I didn’t favor specific types of images. As an Indigenous person, I see the photos I have of other Native Peoples as my ancestors. Looking at them, I not only see myself but also what life might have been like for my great-grandparents and even great-great-grandparents. These are the types of images I wouldn’t be able to find online through a quick Google search, and really that’s what I think is one of the most amazing parts about my collecting. I’ve seen and learned about the lives of tens of thousands of people, how often can you say that?
EG: Do you have other collecting interests other than photos? Are you active on other social media platforms?
JK: I’ve been a collector since I was a child. I rode my bike around all summer in search of yard sales, went to antique shops with my grandparents during our visits. I even used to skip school as I got older to go to estate sales. I’ve collected many many things over years, and still do, but ever since discovering photography, I haven’t collected a whole lot of anything else. I started my Instagram account when I bought my very first photo, I’m not sure what made me do it, but here I am somewhat close to almost a decade later.
Funny enough, I find social media terrifying. In the past 4 years, I think I’ve only posted on Facebook twice. Part of the beauty of these images is I can express myself and my interests while staying private. Some might call it hypocritical, but I see what I do as a way to honor those who’ve come before us, and I try my best to do it as respectfully as possible. I can only hope to leave behind a photograph of myself so great that a stranger wants to buy it.
EG: What are your plans for @discoveringlostsouls? What other creative plans do you have in the works?
JK: @discoveringlostsouls has grown larger than I could have possibly anticipated; I hope to be fortunate enough to see that continue to grow as the years go on. I have a tendency to be a bit of a dreamer, but I’d love to one day make a book of my favorite images, maybe even an exhibit. All I know for sure is I’m going to keep collecting and sharing photos. Any opportunities that come my way not only am I open to but also extremely thankful for. I’d like to thank Flapper Press for the opportunity to share a bit about myself and my photos. Something like this is a first for me!
EG: Please tell our readers about at least 5 of your favorite Instagram posts/images.
Thank you so much for letting us feature you on THE FEED! Good luck with all your endeavors!
Monsheeda (L) and Mehunga (R), Ponca, circa 1890–1900
What's not to like about this image? It is true that so often images this old have a tendency to be very stiff. Obviously, that wasn't always the case. The reality is, most people didn't smile or show much affection in studio photos like this because it was considered informal.
Church of God in Christ, circa 1930–1940
If studio photos were intended to be formal, then snapshots are the perfect opportunity to capture real and raw moments. I'm not sure it can get more real than this.
Lula Lee, age 24, circa 1920
Miss Lula Lee is one of my favorites—the pose, the attitude, the outfit.
I mean it when I say she is everything, and trust me she knows it.
High Eagle family, Pawnee, circa 1900–1910
Maybe by seeing this image you too can understand why I love it so much.
Multi-generational images are something I love to see, but as I mentioned, what really makes this image for me is their hands; notice the way the ring on Mrs. High Eagle's (L) hand, plus the way her hands lay over her stomach, just feels so familiar.
Photo booth photo, circa 1950
Sometimes body language is everything. That could be said for a few of the photos I've shared, but this one in particular. Speak of a picture worth a thousand words!