There is something a little mystical about group photographs–outside of family and class photos and the like.

Carl Jung said group experiences take place on a lower level of consciousness than individual experiences. It makes sense. When a random collection of individuals come together for a moment, their individual, often dissimilar lives are frozen there, still visible to our eyes over a century into the future. Possibly it is the only image of the individuals that exist. It’s also likely that it was only a fleeting instant in their lives–maybe a town they passed through with people they never saw again.

These five photos stretch from San Francisco to España, from New York City to Loyalton, California. What feeling do they give you?

Photos and descriptions courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Hotel Sierra, Loyalton, California, with people standing on porch, people in automobile in foreground, and mountains in background c1906

 

San Francisco Earthquake and Fire- people with temporary living quarters in foreground – ruins in background c1906 May

 

African Americans and white people posing on steps. One man’s head has been cut from the photo Riley, Richard, active 1896-1903 photographer

 

Working people at market, Postigo del Aceite, Seville, Spain 1908

 

People at the anti-meat meeting, New York circa 1905