What To Do With Those Old Photographs

by Katy Tahja

Often people are faced with the dilemma of what to do with family albums of old photographs they don’t want to save. Remove the photos and distribute them to family members? (That’s what I did). Donate the albums to a museum or historical society? Leave them alone and let your descendants figure it out for themselves? Well, one woman with a variety of talents came up with a clever solution. She made them into a book.

“Photographer’s Vintage Treasures and the People Who Wore Them: Early Photography and Memories from Mendocino County (including Vintage Clothing Price Guides)” is the title of Shelley Antilla’s book.

Later this year she’ll be a guest for the Sunday Afternoon lecture series at the Kelley House, but get an early introduction to the book at Gallery Bookshop Friday evening January 15 at 6:30 p.m. and meet the author.

The book is a combination of many things. First and foremost it is three generations of women in Mendocino County and their history in Willits and Comptche told in photos. The book is also fashion history as Antilla had a career working with vintage fashion items. If you’ve ever wondered how to date a photo by what the people wore Antilla shows you how. And it’s Antilla’s story of personal perseverance as she overcame serious obstacles in her path to get this book into print.

Chapters include Weddings and Historical Dress, Young People and Children’s Clothing with small tales, Collectible Letters and Postcards in a trunk, Older People and folklore tales, Logging Photos, How to Liquidate Treasures, and all through the book “Shelley’s Observations” full of historical insights. Men, women and children can all enjoy this book’s contents.

Antilla tells us what makes photographs and memorabilia collectible and how to evaluate what to keep. Does that 1930’s hat you inherited from your Auntie get donated to a thrift shop, thrown in the trash, or placed on sale at e-BAY because you discovered it is worth $100! Antilla is a BIG fan of hats and there are 10 pages of vintage hat photos and prices. If you’re ever faced with the reality of liquidating an estate this book has valuable information on how to do it.

Some photos in the book are barely visible but Antilla uses them as a learning lesson on what happens if you don’t care properly for old photographs. A photo of shredded Levi blue jeans may not be a fashion statement today but the history of the pants is fascinating. The Logging photos include posed photos by traveling professional photographers, photos made for standard mailer postcards and candid shots, mostly taken near Comptche. Some of these logging photographs are unique and not in any local museums.

Many challenges faced Shelley Antilla while producing this book and she hopes her story of perseverance in getting the job done will be an inspiration for other seniors contemplating writing a book. Both the Kelley House and Gallery Bookshop have this interesting insightful book for sale and you can meet the author Friday January 15 at the Bookshop at 6:30 p.m. You’ll never look at an old family photo again without realizing the clothes people are wearing can tell a story too!