We’ve all heard of “the good old days”. A time when life was supposedly simpler, purer and generally just better. The period of time varies depending on who is uttering the phrase, but this yearning for a bygone era is pretty much widespread. Which is why this collection of pictures, some from the not too distant past will make you re-evaluate your nostalgic longing, and make you glad that things “aren’t the way they used to be”.
Lunch atop a Skyscraper, 1932.
Health and safety clearly wasn’t an issue in the 1930s, when this now legendary photograph was captured. Taking a break from working on the construction of the Rockafellar Centre in New York, these men are eating their lunch 840 feet off the ground. Despite rumours that the shot was prearranged, this image is irrevocably linked to the depression and those willing to work in dangerous circumstances out of desperation.
Kenwood Chef ad, 1950s.
Before the feminist movement of the 1960s, chauvinistic images like this were everywhere in advertising. We still have a long way to go towards equality, but at least in 2015 sexist media images are called on it by many members of the public rather than encouraged.
Civil War Veteran Samuel Decker and his old-time prosthetics, 1969
In 1862 Union solidier Samuel Decker was cleaning his gun when it misfired, with the resulting blast blowing off the lower half of his arms. Rather than wallow in self-pity like most of us would, Decker designed and oversaw the creation of what was at the time the most advanced pair of prosthetic arms to date. Here he is in 1869, showing off his finished masterpieces. Although modern prosthetics are far from perfect, they allow many amputees to live a good quality of life, and have come a long way from the 19th century.
This photograph of inside a Victorian surgery
While we’re on the subject, modern medicine has come a long way in general. Before rapid developments in the 19th century such as the invention of anaesthesia, the surgical clamp and the discovery of germs, death during or after surgery was expected, with surgeons being viewed as little more than butchers. Makes modern medicine seem heavenly in comparison.
A black man drinking from a whites only water fountain, 1964
This picture forms part of an extensive collection of images captured by Civil Rights Photographer Cecil Williams, one of the most comprehensive in existance. It is just a singular example of racial segregation and discrimination from the past, and although racism is still present at least segregation is now illegal thanks to laws passed the same year this picture was taken.
This old-fashioned outhouse in the middle of Winter
Thank God for indoor plumbing is all that needs to be said for this one.
These children casually playing next to a dead horse in the street, 1900
During the industrial revolution of the late 18th and 19th century, cities in America and the UK expanded rapidly. This growth surge in both population and technology meant that the face of the cities also changed, with excessive noise, air pollution and sanitation all causing problems. This image of young children playing near a dead horse on a filthy street in Boston in 1900 sums the situation up pretty well.
Bill Gates, a pile of paper and a compact disk circa the 90s
“This CD-ROM can hold more information than all the paper that’s here below me” – Bill Gates, 1994.
Say what you want about the negative effects of advancements in technology – that it’s turning us into anti-social zombies, damaging our eyesight etc. Then imagine dragging all this mountain of paper to work and you might feel differently…
Post-mortem photography in the 19th century
When Louis Daguerre invented the Daguerreotype, the earliest form of photography, it bought portraiture to the masses. For the middle classes it was much cheaper and faster than having a painting commissioned, but it was still pretty costly. Therefore, it became popular to photograph dead loved ones as a keepsake, a final reminder of what they looked like. The dead were pictured in coffins or photographed at their funerals. Other times the bodies were presented as alive, even going as far as propping open the eyes. In modern times this seems morbid, and thankfully the practice fell out of fashion when photography became more affordable.
Post-mortem photography with LIVING family members
What’s more depressing and emotionally traumatic than taking a photograph of a dead family member? Jumping into the shot with them! When post-mortem photography was at its height, it was common for families to pose the deceased in such a way as to make them appear living, in this case on a chair, and take a family photograph. Yet again, to us this seems creepy, but for many this would be the only chance to ever have a picture together.
Which one makes you the most glad to live in the 21st century?