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One Couple Takes the Same Christmas Portrait for 40 Years

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!)

“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.” Click through a selection of photos from the series in our slideshow below, and watch as the decades fly by.

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