I am not a big hoarder of mementos and family lore. Yesterday, however, I was prompted to dig out this picture in reading Michael Kimmelman’s book, The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa, which has a chapter devoted to a brief social history of photography and the many masterful photos that survive to today even if all information about their authors and subjects has been buried in the dust of time.
I absolutely love this photo. I don’t know who the people pictured here are (my father’s extended family, perhaps?), where they were (my guess would be somewhere in Northern Italy), and when the picture dates from (hard to tell from prevailing fashion and accessories, it is perhaps the early 1950s, but it could be earlier or later). I love the clarity and the definition of the figures’ reflection in the lake or the pond. I love the diagonal horizon line provided by the slope. I think the photographer was absolutely brilliant. It is a small but treasured possession, one of the few photos I haven’t parted with since I was a child. Do you have accidental masterpieces in your drawers, too?