The Couple That Took the Same Christmas Portrait for 40 Years

By Caroline Stanley

Anna and Richard Wagner took a photo in front if their tree every year from 1900 to 1942.

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Anna & Richard Wagner

Spotted by Retronaut, these stereoscopic holiday portraits of Richard and Anna Wagner—taken every Christmas Eve from the first year of their marriage in 1900 until just three years before Anna's death in 1945—were sent out as Christmas cards to the couple's friends. Today, they inadvertently offer the modern viewer a fascinating perspective on the passage of time. There are the expected physical changes, like weight fluctuations and thinning hair, as well as the addition of new technology. (Check out that vacuum cleaner in 1927!)

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"We know nothing about the Wagners' motive for taking their photographs every year," Douwe Draaisma writes in Why Life Speeds Up As You Get Older. "Nor do we know how they themselves viewed the photographs once the series had started... For the modern spectator who can page through the whole series and in perhaps an hour watch 45 years pass by in review, this photographic memory has become an unintended work of art."

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This post also appears on Flavorpill, an Atlantic partner site.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/12/the-couple-that-took-the-same-christmas-portrait-for-40-years/266619/