Everyone loves a great thrift store find, but a Belgian shop hit the mother lode this month with an incredible 1990s-era scrapbook documenting one middle-aged woman’s encounters with all manner of A-list celebrities.
Among those pictured? Such luminaries as Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, and Kate Winslett, all immortalized in the age before digital cameras. There’s Elijah Wood as a child, Bruce Willis with hair, and Will Smith in a shiny green button-down, seemingly poised to erupt into a rendition of “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.”
When employees at Opnieuw & Co, in a suburb of Antwerp, discovered the photo album amid a box of donations, they knew it was something special. “This was not something that someone would get rid of voluntarily,” a spokesperson told Bored Panda.
The nostalgia-soaked snapshots, carefully arranged an album covered with a pink floral motif, amount to nothing less than an unwitting—albeit fabulous—piece of Outsider art, pairing some 200 of the world’s most famous faces with the same unassuming woman, short and stout, her face framed with carefully coiffed, light brown curls.
The composition for each image is simple. The woman poses next to the famous actor, typically standing in front of a nondescript backdrop: curtains, or a blank white wall. Almost invariably, she offers the same cheerful grin to the camera, never seeming starstruck in the least.
The pleasing uniformity of the photographs is what elevates it to the realm of fine art, an absurdist masterpiece. We see the instantly recognizable celebrities posing, again and again, year after year, with an anonymous women in her boldly untrendy floral dresses and patterned blazers.
But who was she, and how did she seemingly know—or at least come into contact with—half of Hollywood?
The thrift shop posted the photos on Facebook in an effort to identify the mystery woman and return the album. The photos, unsurprisingly, went viral, but eagle-eyed viewers also found a clue.
Posing with Jane Seymore, the scrapbook keeper can be seen sporting a press badge, which identified her as Maria Snoeys-Lagler, a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who died in 2016 at age 87. The HFPA runs the Golden Globes, and its members attend prestigious film and television events in advance of casting their votes—hence Snoeys-Lagler’s unique access to the stars.
Since uncovering her identity, Opnieuw has managed to track down Snoeys-Lagler’s daughter in California, and will be sending her the photo album. Let’s hope she in turn finds a good permanent home for it—LACMA or the Academy Museum, are you reading?
See more photos from the album below.
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