My wife and I found this framed composite portrait at an antique store in Dubuque, Iowa. The only identifying mark, front or back, is the etched signature of the photo studio: Tasker’s.

Whenever I pause to look at this portrait, I find myself thinking about human connections — and the strangely unsettling way that photography has distorted our grasp of time’s passage.

Although these young women posed for this portrait many decades ago, I have no idea what may have happened to them: how long they lived; where their hopes and dreams took them; how much they were loved by friends and relatives; how they looked in later years.

Their clothes and hairstyles tell us their world was far different from ours. Their thoughts and fears, their beliefs and prejudices, everything they knew and all they would come to know — took shape in their minds through vastly different learning processes and social filters.

Some of these women clearly seem to be from another era. But several of them appear to be utterly timeless. I might expect to see them at a mall, or in a restaurant, or waiting to ride the “Incredible Hulk” coaster at Universal Studios.


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