Some years ago I found a shoebox full of love letters dated 1929-32 from George Daniels, a bank official for the Royal Bank of Canada in New York City, to Edna Josephine MacInnis, a nursing student at Columbus Hospital. The letters, all from George, trace the story of two young people introduced by mutual friends. They begin seeing each other for walks, they go bowling, they have dinner with friends. They fall in love. They have doubts. They write each other at least once every day. Before he goes on vacation she asks him to destroy her letters so his roommates won’t read them (he does). She keeps all his letters, which talk of his love for her, his inexperience and uncertainty in terms of “technique” (kissing), their deepening love for each other and his desire to marry her despite feeling he is too poor, telling her that “I continually doubt that I can make you happy.” On the October day after the stock market crashes, he apologizes for not seeing her—“between this stock market slump and boom and locking up the vault, I’ve been here every evening this week.” Two months later, after “the thrill of a kiss on Terrace Hill,” and a letter he signed, “xoxoxo with every expression of love ever thought of,” they elope.
In this series I use photos of my imagined Ednas to respond to excerpts from the letters that I believe she might have singled out. She was a modern woman. She smoked and wore make-up (which George worries about telling his mother), she loved to dance, she voiced her romantic expectations, she wanted a career. There is nothing momentous about their story—one of the reasons I found it so compelling.