Talking Pictures : Images and Messages Rescued from the Past, Paperback Book

Talking Pictures : Images and Messages Rescued from the Past Paperback

4.5 out of 5 (9 ratings)


"I'm absolutely fascinated by Ransom Riggs' [series] "Talking Pictures" - themed collections of found photographs that happen to have writing on them.

Usually, there's just enough written to make each image more powerful, and leave you wanting more". ( Growing up in South Florida - the land of junk stores, garage sales and big-tent flea markets - Ransom Riggs collected pictures of people he didn't know.

Searching through endless dusty aisles of old stuffed animals, mismatched dishes, and needlepoint portraits, Riggs would find boxes of yellowing snapshots, discarded by old folks who had died or children who hadn't seen fit to save them.

As hundreds of unknown faces from unknown locals stared back at him, Riggs found himself searching a particular kind of photograph - those with writing on the back or sides. "Talking Pictures" is a stunning collection of found images from the past-men, women, and children pulled from obscurity, posing for unknown cameraman.

Yet, upon closer inspection, each image reveals something greater - an inscription that has the ability to open up a new world. In "Talking Pictures" Riggs shows us how a few scribbled lines can turn a blurry black-and-white snapshot of people who seem a million miles and a million years away into an intensely personal sliver of experience that anyone can relate to.

Grouped into categories like Love and Marriage, Road Trip, Clowning Around, and The Dead, the images reveal secrets, express pain and longing, and capture moments of honesty like no other medium.

With a single phrase, each haunting image becomes something not just to look at, but to listen to.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 384 pages, Photos throughout
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Inc
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Photographs: collections
  • ISBN: 9780062099495

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Showing 1 - 5 of 9 reviews.

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Review by

He's a collector of vernacular photos from flea markets, like me, and I first became aware of him through some stories on the Mental Floss website. He's even written a fantasy book sort of based on some of those photos, which I didn't like very much. Anyway, one of his essays was about photos with writing on the back that makes an otherwise unmemorable pictures suddenly meaningful. Like a road in Texas, and when you turn it over it says "This is the spot where Daddy had his accident and died." This book is a collection of such pictures, found by him and by other collectors. It's great. Lots of them are mundane with messages of love or things like that, and most are charming just because they're old. Then there are things like a series of photos taken at Dachau. A picture of some cages turns out to say, on the back, that these were kennels for dogs that were used to chase and attack prisoners.

Review by

An amazing collection of "talking pictures," or vintage photographs with messages written on them. The photos & captions are a mixture of funny, quirky, bittersweet, and heart-wrenching. Perfect for anyone who loves old pictures (like me!).

Review by

"The passage of time makes old photographs more than just someone else's memories. When names and faces are forgotten, they pass into collective memory. In a sense, they belong to all of us."

Review by

I love that Ransom Riggs collected photos ALL his life to compile a book like this. How amazing to delve into the life of someone else through a picture and a simple statement written on the back? Who knew that people discarded these photos so easily at garage sales!? His collection is excellent and I will be opening this book over and over just making up my own stories from those pictures. If anyone needs inspiration for fictional stories, this would be the perfect place to find it. <br/><br/>Photography has changed so much, just recently too... I find that printed pictures will be a thing of the past very soon. Hopefully the photos that are still around are as cherished by others as Riggs has made them. Love this, just love it!

Review by

Ransom Riggs collects photos that he finds at estate sales. The only photos he collects are ones that have writing on them. The writing may be on the back, or it may be on the front; it may even be a part of the photo. His inspiration was one of the first photos he purchased. He decided to move his photos from frames to proper albums. When he tried to move this particular photo he found this written on the back "Dorothy, Chicago, age 15, Died of Leukemia". This book highlights some of his favorite photos. Some are haunting; such as the one that depicts a warning sign for a stop ahead. The writing on the back of the photo indicates "Rock wall near Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California where Dorothy found a baby girl on Jan 24,1961". Who was Dorothy? Who was the baby she found? Did she raise the baby? Why was the baby there?

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