It has been claimed that vintage photographs and postcards open a window into the past. I’m not convinced – at best they offer something like the view obtained through the wrong end of a telescope – a mute and minuscule edited fragment divorced from any wider context. Today’s card depicts a procession of water carriers, children and adults, wading into the River Nile – a routine scene of daily labour. The original photographic image has a snapshot quality to it suggested by the tilted horizon and has been overpainted to introduce some colour. Despite that the features remain well defined and differentiated. The figure supported by a stick appears to be an amputee as does another at the second right but it may be no more than clumsy brushwork on the part of the retouch artist. Imagination will have to suffice for the sounds and smells. We can infer some of the wider landscape from which the photographer made a selection from the other postcards below which explore the same subject. For the most part these are unposed genre scenes and taken together offer a portrait of the waterside human ecology.