Untitled (Found Photograph), ca 1944

Untitled (Found Photograph), ca 1944

I discovered this whole box of photos in 1994 at a neighbor’s yard sale in Long Beach. The thought of this person’s memories being picked through for 5 or 10 cents an image was too much for me so I decided to negotiate with my neighbor to buy the whole box of photos. I think it cost me 5 bucks. There wasn’t a lot of information. I know that they belonged to a man named Anthony Smedley; that he was originally from a little town in South Dakota. The bulk of the pictures were taken by him while he was stationed in Europe (mostly Italy) during World War II. The picture that I’m talking about here is one of him near the encampment where his regiment was stationed. There’s a field filled with those red poppies that you see in Europe. I was told once that the poppies are used as a symbol to honor dead soldiers, so I find it particularly ironic that there would be all these red poppies there. He’s astride a horse that’s being held by a man who’s clearly one of the locals, an Italian, and he’s smiling. It seems like he was having a great time in Italy. This was 1944 or 1945, when the war was winding down. I got the sense that this was the pivotal time in this man’s life, and I often times will look through the photos and try to imagine his relationships to some of the other soldiers in the pictures. There are some who are young, there are some who are older. I wonder how many of these men came from places like South Dakota, and how this really must have affected their lives at that time.

Kristina Newhouse, Curator