Using vintage photos to trigger nostalgia in your audience

Sometimes content will grab your attention because it provides an opportunity to reflect upon how things might have been in a different time in place. Mark Duell, contributor to Associated Newspapers Ltd.’s the Daily Mail, leveraged this technique in his article about a series of color photographs taken by Charles Weever Cushman during a visit to New York City in 1941 and 1942. Duell points out things for the reader to consider:

  • buildings in the photographs that are no longer present
  • landmarks that are still standing (e.g., the Brooklyn Bridge and other parts  of the Manhattan skyline)
  • that the photos were taken when World War Two was underway
  • the photos were taken on Kodachrome, a well known brand of Eastman Kodak film produced from 1935 to 2009 which is “appreciated in the archival and professional market for its dark-storage longevity”
Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City
New York City viewed from the top of Rockerfeller Center. (photo: Daniel Schwen/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic)

The reader is left to peruse a series of photographs that show a sampling of what life was like for New Yorkers in the 1940s. Ferries were used for transport across New York Harbor (just like modern times), horse and carts were used to haul heavy loads throughout the city, ale houses with hand painted signs look somewhat different than the clubs frequented by the modern New Yorker, statues in small city parks and gardens look more or less the same, homeless men sat in suits wearing hats (which appears quite different from how we might expect to see the homeless attired now). Overall, life and work went on from day to day as much as we might expect it to now.

The photos were taken by Charles Weever Cushman, an amateur photographer and are part of a collection of 14,500 Kodachrome color slides that he bequeathed to Indiana University (Cushman’s alma mater). The photos selected from the collection by Duell enabled the presentation of a different memory and story for a modern audience to consider: “how times have changed”.

Learn more about nyc and vintage photography

The Mythic City: Photographs of New York by Samuel H. Gottscho, 1925-1940 is a highly rated collection that documents New York City before it was highly developed by modern real estate moguls. Read inside this 244 page book to see the Art Deco Rex Cole show room and the William Paley Beekman Place town house. From architecture to day-to-day life during the height of the depression.

Primitive Photography: A Guide to Making Cameras, Lenses, and Calotypes provides direction regarding how to create photographic equipment and prints using techniques from the early days of photography. This guide provides illustrations and explanation for how to create black and white photos using pinhole photography and handmade processes. Nothing can recreate the retro look and feel of a vintage photo than shooting and creating prints with authentic processes.



Duell, M. (2011). How times have changed! Amazing colour photos show 1940s life in New York City. Retrieved on September 13, 2011 from

Wikipedia. (2011). Kodachrome. Retrieved on September 13, 2011 from

Indiana University Archives. (2011). Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection. Retrieved on September 13, 2011 from

Schwen, D. (2011). NYC wideangle south from Top of the Rock.jpg. Retrieved on September 13, 2011 from