A Visit With Maureen Taylor — The Photo Detective

One picture is worth a thousand words.  That phrase could be called Maureen Taylor’s motto.  “The nation’s foremost historical photo detective,” (Wall Street Journal) Taylor spends her working life looking deep into two dimensional images for three dimensional truths. 

We asked Ms. Taylor to look at the image of our mystery girl and the pictures and potential clues that our Facebook friends have been adding to the mix and our conversation was so fascinating that we will post it in two blogs (one today and one over the weekend).

“I help people tell the stories behind their own photographs, to collect their own 1,000 words,” says Taylor.  She stresses that although she is often hired by well known media and other major organizations, it’s the grassroots client looking hard at their own family images for clues to their ancestry that makes her job so fascinating.

“A person’s face has attributes that don’t change over the years,” she explains.  There are things that remain the same–like the shape of the face.  If you look at this beautiful little girl some aspects of her features would have remained the same as she aged.  There is even a software program that shows you what a person would look like younger or older.”

Taylor goes on to point out some basics about our mystery girl’s photo:

“If I had the physical picture I would look on the back to see if there were any marks or writing.  A picture is two-sided and people often ignore the back.  After that, looking at the image, I don’t think this is the image of a 13 year old girl.  She is younger, maybe about 9?  She is also wearing what might be called “citified” clothes.  A pinafore over her dress, very fashionable for the time.  Little puff sleeves on the coat.  She is obviously dressed with a lot of care.  People from the countryside did not tend to have such fashionable clothes.  She’s also not wearing a headscarf and her hair is very neatly coiffed.”

Taylor ponts out that the fashionable garb, plus the lack of “ethnic” type identifers like a headscarf, points to a city origin for our girl. 

She also points out that even though the girl is alone in the photograph the photographer could have singled her out and asked her to pose solo while her parents or the group that she was with watched.

More clues and how to pursue your own search for ancestors through images in our next blog entry with Maureen Taylor….

Find out more about the photo detetective at Muareeentaylor.com or on her Twitter page @photodetective.

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3 Responses to A Visit With Maureen Taylor — The Photo Detective

  1. Liliane says:

    This is a great analysis of the dress of the mystery girl. I can’t wait to read tomorrows 2nd part. I never thought of her as a city girl…

    • Sara Soules says:

      I was wondering if this child could be of Russian ancestry and not Galacian as it states on Canadian Archives. I read that the photographer would lump people together not matter what the nationality was. Her hair color, coloring and clothing seems to reflect that to me. Her clothing does appear to be of rather good quality compared to other immigrants pictured. What do you think?

      • Thank you, Sara. It seems that you’ve been reading the blogs carefully for clues. Yes, you have your facts right. Maureen Taylor, the photo detective says her clothing appears stylish and citified when compared with other photos of immigrants. She could be Russian and mis-identified by the photographer.

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