Guelph’s First Photobomb?

Photo of workers at Sleeman factory with photobomber in background

We recently opened a case exhibit called History Myths: Fact of Fiction – You be the Judge. The exhibit uncovers the truth behind some common history myths. One of the myths is that “photobombing is a new phenomenon.”

Harper Collins Dictionary declared “photobomb” a word of the year in 2014.

If the word is new, then surely the act to which it refers is also new. Photobombing could only be the product of our snap-happy, selfie-obsessed, digital culture. Right? Not so fast.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to photobomb means to “spoil a photograph of (a person or thing) by unexpectedly appearing in the camera’s field of view as the picture is taken, typically as a prank or practical joke.”
A photobomb is “typically” a “prank” or “joke” but not always. Search the internet and you’ll find a whole slew of non-intentional photobombs, including ones featuring animals, like this curious squirrel or this goofy seal.

People have been inadvertently spoiling photos since the dawn of photography. You would figure that history is littered with tons of hilarious photobombs just waiting to be discovered.

The trick is finding them. Before photobombing was a ‘thing’ (with crazy meme potential) you might not have kept a spoiled photo. You would probably would have torn it up, thrown the pieces on the ground, and stomped on them.

Well, Guelph Museums is doing its part to recover history’s lost photobombs. Here’s a photo featured in History Myths: Fact or Fiction – You be the Judge of the Sleeman factory, circa 1890.

Look closer.

Some photobombs are funny, others terrifying . . .

Visit the museum to see the History Myths: Fact or Fiction – You be the Judge case exhibit. It runs until June 14.

Posted by Sarah Ball on December 16, 2014

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