Philip Holmes – photographic evidence

To go to the beginning of this story, which is spread over several blog posts, click here.

It’s pretty frustrating to have a pile of family photographs and have no idea who the people are. In the case of Philip Holmes, Carol had an old photograph reputed to be of him. So here we had the opposite – a photograph with a name, but little information on the person.

In some cases old photographs do yield clues  – it can be possible to get an idea of the year/era that a picture was taken by the photographic technique used or the clothes worn by those pictured. Carol had already done some of her own research trying to date the picture.

Philip Holmes reverse of photo Solio crop

The stamp box in the top right is bordered by the word “Solio”. Solio was a photographic paper introduced by Kodak in 1908 and sold all over the world until the 1920s. The photographs were developed directly onto on the photographic paper which was the size and weight of a postcard and had a divided back – one space for a message, the other for the recipient’s address. Philip’s photograph was an example of a “Real Photo Post Card”.

The front of the card is of course where most of the clues lie and we’ll come to that. The back of the card had an oddly worded message which Carol and I discussed at length. It wasn’t going to offer any clues about the identity of Philip but we looked for clues in anything that we could.

Philip Holmes reverse of photo with message

I think we tore apart this message looking for some hidden meaning about the relationship between Philip and his dad. On the one hand, “Dad” was a very informal salutation. It didn’t carry the slight emotional distance of “Father”; nor was it as working class as something like “Da” or as pretentious as “Pater” . The sentiment of “Fondest Love” seemed a little stiff and awkward from the relaxed-looking young man in the photograph. The handwriting looked as if it had been written painstakingly by someone unused to writing messages. And we wondered why the card was written out to “Dad”, not “Mum and Dad”. Had this card, with its very personal family message, ever been given to Philip’s dad?

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