Carmel Bennoon. A name on a Junior College ID - the only clue I had when I first bought this collection of about 100 photobooths and snapshots, of the same woman over the course of her life.
Photobooths can be found at almost any market, but 100 of the same woman is something magical. I bought the lot about three years ago, from vendors at Kane County Flea Market - just north of Chicago.
They had cleaned out an estate and it turned out that a couch had a small box of photobooth pictures inside of it. A rather peculiar place to store your snapshots, I’d say. Apparently, there were no direct relatives to inherit the photos.
When I got home and had a chance to analyze the collection, I wondered who this woman was. I was amazed to see a young girl turn into a mature woman in a matter of minutes. She was aging right before my eyes - gracefully, as she was always quite beautiful and stylish.
I ended up doing some research and found out that she was Jewish of Eastern European descent, had grown up on the north side of Chicago and ended up becoming a high school teacher. I looked at the photobooths wondering what Carmel had thought of as the camera clicked. Did she ever find love? Was teaching what she had expected? How did Chicago treat her? And did she feel content later on in life?
In these photos I saw someone who was poised, beautiful, strong, melancholic, and at times disappointed. In reality, when I looked at the photos I saw myself.
All of us that collect or enjoy snapshots are looking at a reflection of something…of humanity. We are seduced by feelings of nostalgia, hoping to go back in time to revisit something lost or unresolved. Mortality looks us right in the eye and we can’t let go. I’m sure Carmel experienced happiness in her life. I see the sparkle in her eyes all the way to the very last photos taken of her. And what more can you ask for than moments of happiness?
I treasure this collection more than any of my other photos. It’s one woman’s life encapsulated in small 1 1/2 x 2 inch cuts of paper. Above is a sample of some of the photos from the collection.