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“The photographs have lost their original meanings,” veteran collector Joel Rotenberg said.“Now they have room for the meanings we give them.”Still, remnants of original meaning persevere, in a scribbled note on the back of the picture, perhaps—a name, a date, a place, or even a personal reflection.The 70-year-old has published several books of found photographs, displaying them in pairs intended to evoke specific connections between disparate subjects: a prisoner and a baby, kids with toy guns and a wounded soldier, a woman in a hijab, and a woman in a catcher’s mask.Among these, as among all snapshots, there is a broader connection too.Walker describes it as a shared relationship to time.“Every person in a photo is older than when that photo was taken,” she elaborated.
I met the collector and catering-company owner sometime later in his sprawling Manhattan apartment.
“I look at a photo and I know someone is probably dead and that one day I'll be dead too.
There must be some secret of time held in these images.
It feels like someone is whispering to me across the decades.
Sometimes, it almost feels like I can whisper back.”* * *The origins of snapshot collecting are unclear, however, as a collector myself, judging by price increases of old photographs at flea markets and online, the phenomenon is growing rapidly.