At The Hop

In my online meandering, I came across this great photograph of hop pickers in Kent, sometime in the early 1900’s. All those kids in the great outdoors, grass in their hair, dirty faces, dirty hands. Just like when I was a kid. Except I didn’t know I was born, as the saying goes.

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You know how much I love old photographs? I went looking for more.

I reckon the two adults on the left of this photograph are sisters. What do you think? Maybe all three? Look at the little Shirley Temple in the centre.

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When the time was right, farmers down in the South of England would advertise for people to head over and stay for six weeks, picking hops. Invariably those responding would be women and children who didn’t have other jobs to do. They would respond, swapping the polluted air of the cities for the clean, fresh air of the rural land. A working holiday, if you like. The two girls at the very front are speaking conspiratorially about the photographer. Listen hard, you may hear them.

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I like the way the girl third from the left is looking at the girl to her side, laughing eyes, secretive thoughts. I reckon the other girl has had a ticking off from her Mum here, looking down sulkily. That’s the thing: we will never know. We can make up anything we want. At the other end of the shot: nice wellies.

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I had problems making this photograph larger, but I still want to include it. The ancestors insisted: us too. I’m sure you can make it bigger on your tablets with a bit of index finger-thumb stretching magic.

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How confident (and truculent) does the lad in the centre look? I’ve seen a similar photograph of a young John Lennon with that very same expression. And how feisty does that terrier look? Put him down and you just know he’s gonna scamper right after the photographer.

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I know they are working, but most of the people in these shots look a lot happier (and healthier) than the folk we see in contemporary portraits, working in the mills and factories. Perhaps it is just the outdoor setting causing me to read this into them. Always the subjective optimist.

These fading photographs of Southern England have got me all of a sudden sensing the approaching summer.Can you smell the meadow flowers? Taste that scrumpy cider?

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If any of you are wondering why I love old photographs so much, see the highlighted post below: A Sense Of Absence.https://cityjackdaw.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/a-sense-of-absence/