Photo Button

 

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Leaving aside the toys for a moment, this also turned up during the packing marathon. I bought it at an antiques sale years ago. I have seen many since, but have not (yet) purchased another. They do fascinate me. It is a bit blurry, clearly quite old – earlier than I think than I knew that photo buttons, or even buttons in general could be, when I bought it. (Although the Hake’s catalogue has subsequently introduced me to some VERY early political photo buttons. The educational aspect of my close examination of the Hake’s catalogue I guess.)

I have not been able to find a huge amount of information devoted to this specific practice, although what information I have found would imply that it might be a form of momento mori (translated as remember you will die) or mourning pin. Jewelry assigned to this description includes skeletons, skulls and other reminders of mortality – meant at first to display piety and to encourage thought about the temporary nature of this life. This morphs into jewelry that memorialized a loved one lost. Brooches, rings and pendants are just a few items made from human hair that fall into this category. Although, while researching this fascinating practice recently after receiving a stunning example of a brooch from a family friend, it turns out that some items were just made from anyone’s hair and sold. While the whole practice may seem odd – that seems most strange – but more on that another time.

What interests me is the way photography starts to play a role. Starting with tiny daguerreotype pins of loved ones, which give way to these types of pins and eventually it is lockets that hold photographs – and perhaps a lock of hair again. At that point, photos are of both the beloved who are living as well as deceased. (My real feelings about this pin is that this was a living loved one.) Then, over time, the whole practice vanishes into the past. We no longer, or rarely, honor our dead with visual or physical jewelry reminders of them it seems. However, I frequently wear my sister and my grandmothers rings and I think of them when I do – perhaps a tiny bit of their DNA mingling with mine. Not a hair brooch, but still a reminder.

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