Photo Detective: School Days

Photo Detective: School Days

All that's written on the back of this photograph, owned by Glenn Andes, is "Ray Gorman, Yumma [sic] Colo." There's no photographer's imprint or other identifying information. One of Andes' relatives thinks the subjects are members of either the Gorman or Farren family, but no one knows for...

All that’s written on the back of this photograph, owned by Glenn Andes, is “Ray Gorman, Yumma [sic] Colo.” There’s no photographer’s imprint or other identifying information. One of Andes’ relatives thinks the subjects are members of either the Gorman or Farren family, but no one knows for sure. After examining the picture for several hours and enlarging specific areas to see details, I decided that this isn’t a family portrait. Here’s how I came to that conclusion.

In this compelling image, the photographer chose to alternate males and females. Initially, this arrangement seemed significant; however, the subjects look too young to be paired off as couples, and the woman on the right looks older than the other subjects. To narrow the time frame for the image, I turned to costume clues. These really tested my powers of observation.

Starting with the young women’s clothing, I zoomed in on each element of the subjects’ costumes. By doing so, I discovered some surprising evidence. The first and third women from the left wear identical dresses with buttons on the bodices. This could mean the same person made the dresses or that the dresses are uniforms. I think this clue indicates that the two women are related. Their facial features, specifically their noses and mouths, have similar shapes. Plus, they wear identical watch chains, and their hair is styled the same way. They look to be posed according to age, with the younger sibling on the left and the older sibling on the right.

The young men’s clothing helps date the picture. All of their suits have long, wide lapels. This detail, combined with the removable shirt collars and colorful neckties, suggests the picture dates from the early 20th century. In the late 19th century, men wore tightly fitted jackets with small lapels, which bear no resemblance to the suits in this picture.

Two of the young men have similar facial features. The second and fourth men from the left have the same eyes, ears and mouths. And their shirt collars and ties are identical. As with the women’s clothing, these costume clues link the men as siblings. The older brother is on the far right.

So, here’s my theory: This is a class picture with at least two pairs of siblings. The woman on the far right is their teacher. All three of the female students wear their hair in a youthful style with center parts, full hair over the ears, and bows. The woman on the far right wears her hair on top of her head, which signifies that she is no longer a young girl, and distinguishes her from her students. Given the evidence that there are two groups of siblings, it appears that the photographer posed the students with the youngest pupils on the left and the oldest near the teacher.

The name and place on the back of the picture might identify one of the young men and the place where the photo was taken. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find information about a Ray Gorman. I hope someone will prove my theory by coming forward with another copy of the photograph with a different name on the back. As usual, if you have any information on this picture, please contact me at

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