I have tintypes in all sizes they made from the teensy charms for lockets to full sheets.
Small details tattle about the family. This little girl is wearing jewelry and has a china doll. Clearly, they had disposable income.
I have daguerrotypes, rubrotypes, albumin prints, cabinet cards, and over a dozen Victorian family photo albums brimming with love, laughter, loss, and laughter.
I have massive portraits in thirty-eight pound gesso frames-- all of them bought because the moment I saw them, they shouted out stories I had to write.
The images are irresistable. Piercing eyes, painstakingly curled coiffures, intricate, hand-sewn dresses that weighed forty-three pounds.
Who were these people?
What did they do?
Did that woman give birth to all of these children, or is she a second wife, or did she and her husband take orphaned nieces and nephews?
Each photograph is a glimpse of what life was like. The clothing, accessories, the environment. I think a picture is worth far more than a paltry thousand words!
Some things are timeless: babies wearing only one shoe, little girls with lacy collars and ringlets, boys sport ornery-looking cowlicks, and men beam with pride as the stand beside their ride---whether it's a mustang or a Mustang. Family pictures are posed, and someone is looking the wrong way, another is grumpy, and Mama looks frazzled.
We think nothing of snapping dozens of pictures with digital cameras; a century ago, having a single picture of someone was an absolute treasure. Pictures of babies abound because parents feared they'd lose their beloved child and not have a remembrance. Pictures were taken with a deceased family member posed with everyone else so they'd all be together--- just as women during the Civil War would hold pictures of their absent husbands so they could be together.
Ask anyone what they'd save if their house were burning. They'd grab the Bible and pictures. Smart choice.