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A Vintage Photo Mystery

If you’ve read Prairie Style File since the beginning, you might remember that I used to write about local art, artists and the creative process for my In Studio series. I want to do more of that in 2016 and as I was researching interesting people, a photo from Kayla at Kayla Satrom Photography popped up on my Instagram feed.

The photo was one that she found on a roll of exposed film at an antique store. Once she had it developed, she couldn’t stop thinking about the people and places she saw in the images. And since midwestern history, genealogy, photography and treasure hunting at antique stores fascinate me in equal measure, now I can’t stop thinking about those photos either.

Every time I go to an estate sale or into a private home on a buying trip for Prairie Style Vintage (I know, I know — shameless plug alert) I always think about the little clues that the details of our lives reveal, even after we’re gone.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up an item — a jaunty hat nestled inside a gorgeous hat box, a shopping bag that’s stored letters and photos for decades, a lovingly preserved time capsule of a jewelry box, a handmade quilt — and felt like I suddenly knew something vital and important about its previous owner.

Kayla needs our help to decipher tiny clues like that to solve this photo mystery and return these photos to their owner. Here’s a quick Q & A with her so you can learn more about this vintage photo mystery and maybe even help us solve it.

How did the photos come to be in your possession?  “I have started shooting film photography, so I’m always on the lookout for old film cameras. I went to Page Antiques in Page, ND, and while I was looking through their old camera equipment I found a roll of film that had been exposed. I was so curious to know what was on it!

I emailed the photo lab that I use (The FIND Lab) and asked if they were still able to develop it. It was a color film (Kodacolor-X) that was discontinued a long time ago along with the development process for it. The best bet of the lab being able to recover the photos was to develop it as black and white film. Thankfully they were able to develop it and the scans turned out great!”

Why were you drawn to these images?  “I love photos. They are a visual reminder of our past.

Some of the photos are of a mother holding her baby, and I can’t help but wonder where that baby is now. What if this person has no photos of them as a baby? I would love to find him/her! If that was me, I would love to have a photo of my mother holding me. I also love history and a good mystery, and this is both!”

Have you uncovered any leads so far? “Not a lot. Most people have suggested contacting the NDSU Archives. I reached out to them and John Hallberg looked through their photos of houses with the house numbers 515 and 623 (both are visible on houses in the photos). Nothing came up for Fargo.

Him and a few others suggests using Google Maps earth view and to type in some addresses to see if anything came up. I tried that and it was very time consuming. I know that these have to be from somewhere in the FM/RRV area because in one of the photos the lady is holding a DeLendrecie’s bag. So while they maybe weren’t taken in Fargo, it could be any town close to it.

I also contacted the City of Fargo and the lady that emailed me suggested going to the main library and using the city directory. I live 60 miles outside of Fargo, so I haven’t gotten to the library yet. And if these aren’t in Fargo, that won’t really help me anyway.

I had one man think that the photos of the lady holding the bird was maybe his grandmother, but she passed away a few years ago. He was going to check with some family members, but never got back to me. He said she lived in Fargo and then moved to Glyndon in the 60’s. I tried using google maps to find the house there but I had no luck.”

What are you hoping to find out? “I just want to find who the people in the photos are because I would love to be able to give them back a little piece of their history. I know some of the older ones are probably deceased now, but if those people were your parents/grandparents, you’d probably want these photos.”

Can you help us solve this photo mystery? If you have any tips or ideas, comment below this post. What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found in an thrift shop, antique store or garage sale? What mysteries from the past would you like to solve?

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Tag your pics and travel tips #PrairiePeople and #PrairiePlaces on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. You could inspire an upcoming post on Prairie Style File. Prairie Style File is curated by Alicia Underlee Nelson. All rights reserved.

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