Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Family Portraits, Vintage Photo Contest

The date is January 3, 1954. Pictured in the center is my grandfather Yukio (known to me as Ji-chan, Japanese for Grandpa). My dad (pictured on left) is 9 here, his brother a couple years older. The three of them are getting ready to leave Japan for the first time and emigrate to California. My Japanese-American grandmother (born/raised in Calif.) had earlier left her family in Japan in order to find a job, a place to live, and get settled here. Then she sent over for her husband and kids to come and join her in the States.

This photo of Ji-chan reminds me of a Japanese Indiana Jones with the leather jacket and fedora, ready to go on an adventure in a far-off land. He always looked sharp when he went out.

Ji-chan was always a bit of a mystery to me as there was a language barrier (he spoke only Japanese) and he was a quiet man. But I really loved him. He would sneak behind my grandmother’s back and smoke cigarettes in the garage or in the car. I’d always laugh at him becuase it was so obvious. He would awe me with his yo-yo tricks. When I was little I’d hold his hands and he would let me step on his toes while he’d walk around the house. And he was a highly regarded gardener in the Japanese community and won awards for his amazing bonsai plants. He was in his backyard garden, sitting at a chair next to a little table tending to one of his mini-tress when he passed away when I was 14. When my grandmother discovered him she thought that he was simply taking a nap because he looked so peaceful.

When I saw the pictures of my graceful compatriot on your site, I felt the urge to send some of my most cherished family photos too, those of my paternal grandmother Theresa Moreira Reis. She was born in 1903 in Recife, Northern Brazil, daughter to the city’s most sought-after tailor. Politicians and other affluent people were part of his clientele, and her father’s work influenced her sense of style throughout her life. Grandma Theresa was congenitally chic, and unpretentiously glamorous before fashion was in fashion. Her European taste in dressing must have made her stand out there and then.


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  1. Xanela Chic

    March 30, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    I love these photos…

  2. Eliza

    March 30, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    I am in love with this woman. I can only hope that I would have been as chic as she, had I grown up in her time period.
    KEEP THE PICTURES COMING! so interesting!

  3. Anonymous

    March 30, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    These are my favorites so far. Finally some contributors who can write!

  4. Marc

    March 30, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    The Asian photo is just perfect. Their facial expressions encapsulate a story of leaving one's country – excitement & nervousness, eagerness & reluctance.

  5. GiniGL

    March 30, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    These are all so incredibly lovely.

  6. Marcela A.

    March 30, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Great stories and beautiful pictures!

  7. danana

    March 30, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    I have been enjoying these beautiful vintage photos- what a great idea – as well as appreciating your eye in 'man/woman on the street' style. I would like to comment on the story with the first photo here – I believe this is the first time that I have heard of the woman coming to establish herself in the new country, and then sending for the family – usually I have heard it the other way around. Neat!

  8. Muhulaivan

    March 30, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    What an amazing two photos. I'm Mongolian living in Japan, so the first picture really hit me with this nostalgic idea of what Japan was like many years ago. It just fills my imagination about the world they have experienced that's forever lost to us, but somehow reachable through their souls captured in this photo. So thank you for this wonderful moment.

  9. jacqkent

    March 30, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    This is such a good thing to do, Scott … the photos are just wonderful. It's a wonderful window into twentieth-century social history, too, and I love the comments of the people who have contributed.
    Thank you!

  10. Dona

    March 30, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    These photos are quite genuine and lovely

  11. omoriala

    March 30, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    Are you a quarter Japanese? The Japanese term is "hapa," meaning half or mixed.

  12. Allison Toledo

    March 30, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    I love it!
    I adore the vintage look

  13. RR

    March 30, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    from all these photos i'm seeing a common affinity for hats. Beautifully worn, and beautifully worn.

  14. KohCo

    March 30, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    I'm really loving the vintage photos…
    And the stories behind the people in them

    Just fascinating



  15. gabriela

    March 30, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    i love the idea of the vintage photos. they are gorgeous. the satorialist in an inspiration for my own blog. besos gabriela xx

  16. kathrynnova

    March 30, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    i love the expression in the woman's eyes peering out from under her cloche hat. she's completely mesmerizing…..


  17. The Red Velvet Shoe

    March 30, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    I'd die for her hat. . . there is an alluring mystery to this beautiful woman. . .my favorite so far.

  18. Anonymous

    March 30, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    My favorite pics so far. I am really enjoying these contributions from readers.

  19. Elizabeth

    March 30, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    i've really been enjoying these photos… keep it up! it's wonderful to see how style has always been a passion for people, any year or time.


  20. Takeru

    March 30, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    The first picture is amazing!. Reminds me of my grandfather.

  21. Anonymous

    March 30, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Killer boots, Ji-chan! A Japanese Indiana Jones, I love it.

  22. the red bungalow

    March 30, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    I love these photos! I recently found some great old black and whites of my grandmother when she was a child…I just think the woman back then had instant chic built right into them!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Bre @ http://theredbungalow.blogspot.com

  23. -h

    March 30, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    The Japanese family, that's the winner, hands down no contest

  24. chirooo

    March 30, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Jiichan story is beautiful! I wonder where they took the photo. New years so it could be Meiji Shrine??

  25. china hiphone

    March 30, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    These photos are quite genuine and lovely

  26. Anonymous

    March 30, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Hats are so underrated!

  27. May

    March 30, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    The cloche is to die for.

  28. Anonymous

    March 30, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Like everyone before me, I agree, amazing stories and amazing photos. How sad you lost you Ji-chan at only 14, thank you for sharing that with us.
    And….. my God…. that hat!!!!!!!!!!

  29. Jeff

    March 30, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    AGREED! This photograph of the Japanese family (the most dandy of them all) is so inspiring. The detail, fit, and textures present in all three of their outfits is amazing. As well the composition of the photograph is beautiful and truly tells a story. I really hope this photograph is selected as the winner as I think it really embodies the essence of this blog and Scott's perspective of fashion.

  30. Beny Ricardo Sadewo

    March 30, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    I Do Love Japanese Vintage photo…. very classic and chic yet

    Beny Ricardo Sadewo

  31. toboe

    March 30, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    I love ji-chan's lace-up boots. They're too funky!

  32. Donnie Gayfield

    March 30, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    I am so touched by the story of the Japanese American grandfather.

  33. Nieni

    March 31, 2010 at 12:22 am

    I felt nostalgidc.Ji-chan,so cool.

  34. Sputnik

    March 31, 2010 at 12:33 am

    Even those two kids on top picture are dressed to impress…Really enjoying these contest entries posts…keep them coming…

  35. Isabella

    March 31, 2010 at 12:38 am

    Both photos are amazing…
    Ji-chan's look is unbelievable and Thereza was not doubt a very elegant lady.


    March 31, 2010 at 12:56 am

    Wow, love the motorcycle jacket in the first photo! xo


  37. Anonymous

    March 31, 2010 at 1:35 am

    The top photo of the three Japanese males is just beautiful, and I love the comments that accompanied it.
    Such style, and such a fantastic photograph!
    It gets my vote.

  38. Anonymous

    March 31, 2010 at 1:43 am

    These images are all so moving. I love the individuality they all express, through style as well as expression. I also love that so many of these people are clearly not "elites", and simply have great innate style. Keep them coming..

  39. Denise Akemi

    March 31, 2010 at 1:51 am

    Hi! Thank you so much for featuring my photo (the Japanese pic of my family). This made my day!

    These lovely comments make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You readers rock!

  40. M

    March 31, 2010 at 3:11 am

    I only want to say what others have probably been saying – NICE STUFF!

    Check mine up. Street fashion blog from India.


  41. Anonymous

    March 31, 2010 at 3:34 am

    Ji-chan's hat is … incredible! I've never seen such a beautiful hat before, it's perfect.

  42. Anonymous

    March 31, 2010 at 3:42 am

    Oh, how wonderful to see that Grandma Theresa's picture made it here! This was taken together with Uncle Pedro in 1929.

    She used to call me "the greatest happiness in the winter of her life" because, when I was born she had not expected, at the age of 73, to have any more grandchildren. They say I resemble her in the manners although she passed away when I was only 13. I wish I had had the chance – like my siblings – to have met her as a woman and not only as a child. This is my small homage to her.


  43. Ivy Lee

    March 31, 2010 at 4:03 am

    "Grandma Theresa was congenitally chic, and unpretentiously glamorous before fashion was in fashion." Wonderfuly said…

  44. Alexa

    March 31, 2010 at 4:44 am

    thank you so much for sharing. i really enjoyed this post a lot!

  45. Anonymous

    March 31, 2010 at 4:59 am

    Thanks for taking your blog to the next dimension!
    How awesome is that cloche hat? People dressed with more humility in days of yore, it was less about branding, more about the craft of fashion. i think.

  46. Flannel

    March 31, 2010 at 5:06 am

    Scott, more proof (as if it were needed) that what you do goes beyond documenting taste. These stories open a whole new window into the role both personal style and photography have in shaping memory and, through that, collective experience.

  47. proletarian Great Gatsby

    March 31, 2010 at 5:27 am

    First:Thanks for the storys of your life.
    Picture of Japan:clothes are still modern and could be worn today.
    Picture of Brazil:I love the cloche hat.Mother and daughter like Jeanne Lanvin and her daughter in those years.

  48. Giovanella

    March 31, 2010 at 5:56 am

    I am in awe and in love with this brazilian snapshot sent to you Mr.Scott..evokes eternal style and sense of past. just lovely.

  49. Tathyana

    March 31, 2010 at 6:08 am

    The Japanese-American story reflects mine quite similarly. These vintage photos have less to do with the style of the subjects but the lives they have lived. These photos are merely a few seconds in their full lives and it's fun to complete the rest of their untold stories with the image of their faces.

  50. SoFranni Finesse

    March 31, 2010 at 6:25 am

  51. C.

    March 31, 2010 at 6:50 am

    Gorgeous photos, very beautiful…

  52. guesswhatijustshotabear

    March 31, 2010 at 7:06 am

    wow. The japanese picture is unbeliavable. Look at the guy's outfit, it's amazing. It doesn't look 50's at all! the fedora is cool, the leather jacket is so rad, it looks really modern with the diagonal zippers, it doesn't look like the leather jackets in the 50's ! And then the pants tucked in those amazing boots.

    Just fantastic.

  53. Anonymous

    March 31, 2010 at 7:10 am

    too too glam. just saw chanel & igor – has the same look as the actress in that movie – beautifully elegant face, long neck, the pared down silhouette, the cloche of course & hair… how elegant that era was!

  54. gih

    March 31, 2010 at 7:16 am

    hhm.. I think that Japanese would win the contest.

  55. litttledarling

    March 31, 2010 at 7:27 am

    I really love these pics, well actually all the old ones, I find them so inspiring. I'd have loved to participate on the Vintage Photo Contest becase I have a lot of photos from my grandma, which are delightful, but unfortunatelly the term is over.Thanks for owning such a great blog.

  56. RRD

    March 31, 2010 at 8:26 am

    The high lace up boots Ji-chan is wearing are outstanding, to the point of elegance.

  57. Anonymous

    March 31, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Loving the woman's hat!
    And absolutly loving this contest!!!
    Keep on posting…

  58. Anonymous

    March 31, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Hats seem to evoke an air of civility–or maybe it was moreso a reflection of the times. I like the top photo especially because there seems to be a story looming behind the short writeup about the Japanese grandfather. He looks like a real character and that he had some interesting stories to tell. He knows how to wear his boots like a military man WITH a motorcycle jacket. Not everyone can pull that look off with conviction. This man was a walking book/movie himself–I bet.

  59. Anonymous

    March 31, 2010 at 9:00 am

    I love all these vintage photos and the stories behind them. I hope you continue to post them long after the contest is over. What a fabulous idea – very inspiring.

  60. kristen

    March 31, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Love these pix! Truly elegant people.

  61. [email protected]

    March 31, 2010 at 10:08 am

    I have just noticed she is wearing a jaguar-printed blouse and an oversized blazer on top! More modern combo, impossible. Avantguarde?

  62. Nathan Wang

    March 31, 2010 at 10:20 am

    i love the 2nd pic so much!!!

  63. thebeautyphilosopher

    March 31, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Gorgeous, gorgeous. The hats! It's all about the hats; they really set the visual and emotive tone.

  64. gin

    March 31, 2010 at 10:32 am

    This photo reminded me of my ji-chan.I also loved ji-chan who was gentle and calm. Nice photo and story.

  65. Anonymous

    March 31, 2010 at 11:22 am

    What a lovely photo! I am from Recife too but have lived abroad for most of my life. Great to see such sense of style coming from there. Good times! Well done! :)

  66. STS

    March 31, 2010 at 11:22 am


  67. gr00sh

    March 31, 2010 at 11:27 am

    nice :)

  68. lula

    March 31, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Great the initiative of the Vintage Photo Contest! Ins't that amazing how much "real life" can one image condense? Fantastic lessons of being elegant no matter how difficult the situation could be. Thanks for curating them.

  69. Anonymous

    March 31, 2010 at 11:55 am

    maybe i'm just a huge sap but the photograph and story of the Japanese family and particularly the grandfather was so touching that a tear came rolling down my cheek! that one gets my vote, for sure.

  70. Anonymous

    March 31, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Like this very much.

  71. Julia, the Thanksgiving Girl

    March 31, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    What beautiful photos and stories! I'm really enjoying the contest :)

  72. Pam

    March 31, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I'm LOVING these pics and little pieces of personal history that come with them. It's wonderful!!

  73. Maria Manuela

    March 31, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    You have a little brazilian blood in you, i knew it! and love u even more for it!

  74. Prutha

    March 31, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    how cute is that hat!!!!! i love this picture!!!

  75. jo

    March 31, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    sends chill up my spine to see such history captured into two little photos…

  76. Naoko

    April 1, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Thank you for the beautiful pictures and stories. I'm Japanese and emigrated to Canada last year. I enjoyed your Ji-chan story very much. He has a very cool style;especially back in those days! I'd love to see your Oji-chan's bonsai plants and gardens.

  77. Anonymous

    April 1, 2010 at 1:18 am

    I love the photo of the two boys pictured with their father. I think this picture captures not only the style during that time, but the emotions a family can experience when someone is about to make one of their most important changes in their life, as it is to leave their homeland. Their emotions really transcend the simple shot.

    LLecenia from California

  78. yuko

    April 1, 2010 at 5:29 am

    i was so touched by your post.
    i'm also japanese, moving to california in this august. made me happy that you have japanese blood and understand our culture….


  79. suzuki

    April 1, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Ji-chan is so cool !
    and its beautiful picture.

  80. Anonymous

    April 2, 2010 at 3:29 am

    Nice picture! As "italo brasiliano", this picture mean something to me. Have you ever been in Brazil?

  81. Anonymous

    April 2, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Your Grandma was absolutely beautiful; so cool (in the traditional sense of the word) and elegant. This is lovely photograph, I like the way the child's ball echoes the shape of your Grandma's cloche hat. Perfect.

  82. Anonymous

    April 6, 2010 at 4:54 am

    I love these stories. The Japanese one is amazing. Makes the pictures so much more lively. Great concept. Can I still post one of my grandfather, an amazingly stylish farmer and pioneer.

  83. emilyscott

    April 19, 2010 at 6:55 am

    I believe this is the first time that I have heard of the woman coming to establish herself in the new country.I enjoyed your Ji-chan story very much. He has a very cool style.

    Best Attorney

  84. banglesshouldjangle

    April 24, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    I want to have these clothes!!!

  85. xx

    April 29, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Ji-chan story is so touching…after i read so many vintage pictures related stories, i wondered whats my grandparents' stories were. Sadly, they have passed away when i was very young…

  86. Anonymous

    May 3, 2010 at 12:04 am

    "congenitally chic"
    I love that

  87. Alain Alexandre

    February 22, 2011 at 4:27 am

    sculpture géniale comme photo, une époque de l'argentique la photo de valeurs

  88. dcinDC

    May 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Aren’t they cute in their Thom Browne for kids!

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