Vintage Photos and the Politics of Smoking

I just posted an image from the ever-magical Shorpy’s Photo Blog, and when I returned to my RSS reader to continue browsing the images I stumbled on another moving photo titled “A Big Kiss for Grandpa” featuring a cool-looking, supine man holding his grand-daughter up in the air.

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What you may or may not notice on first glance is the cigarette leaning comfortably against grandfather’s lip. Not particularly strange for 1941 by any account, but the comments that ensue on this post suggest just how caught up we are in out own righteous and historically blinding sense of “progress.” Take, for example, the first comment left by Mr. Mel:

It shows what we didn’t know or think of then. The possibility of burning the child or even worse, the ingestion of secondhand smoke leading to the lung problems of that and succeeding generations. We’ve got the info now, but there’s still plenty of smokers out there.

As you can imagine, a series of comment responses follow about smoking, some defending Grandpa and others attacking him. What drives me crazy is that all these people can remark upon is the cigarette (a rather inconspicuous element of this photo), when the image itself speaks volumes about a intimate moment between two people, two generations. I don’t know why this irks me so, but to see an image that inspires so much that is beautiful be reduced to a sophomoric argument about the dangers of smoking drives me nuts. Our culture is spiraling out of control in all the wrong directions — and if it ain’t the organic hoax or the anti-smoking freaks or fitness frenzy or the touchy-feely child-rearing hippies, it’s the death of Hollywood, iHop, and all that is holy.

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3 Responses to Vintage Photos and the Politics of Smoking

  1. Shannon says:

    I don’t always agree with you in your liberal hatred, but I definitely agree on this.
    People go about arguing the past thinking that somehow the photo will change itself, it is what it is. It is true during that time people didn’t realize that ill effects of smoking, can we move on now? Why are people arguing a moot point?
    When I saw the photo, yes I noticed the cigarette, but that was not made the photo so endearing.
    You’ve made me say it, damn hippy scum bags! haha

  2. Jerry says:

    Here is an item that will appeal to your sense of outrage.
    http://www.mcphee.com/items/11095.html

  3. jimgroom says:

    Jerry,

    How can I respond to that link?

    You’re a sick maniac, you know that, right?

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