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Picturing a World

Asleep on a train

For my new novel, I’m investigating early 20th C photography and print processes. This picture of a girl asleep on a train appears at the very useful Art of the Photogravure as well as other websites.

When I first saw it a few years ago, it made me think of Amy coming back to Paris alone from Pont Aven or Jeanette and Effie sitting up all night on their train trip to Provence. The date was wrong—but just look at the shawlstrap, the umbrella, the hat pushed back against the seat, the look on the sleeping woman's face! Ann Patchett claims in her fascinating new book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, that she doesn't research topics deeply for her novels because human feelings are the same regardless of period details. My own view is that actions and feelings grow out of historical circumstances, but surely twenty years doesn't make much difference here.

Question: If this image were used as the primary basis for a story, do you think its date would matter? Would it matter whether the photo were staged? whether the woman had a companion? Or is it fair just to take inspiration and run with it?
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