There's few things better than finding a hidden gem in a charity or vintage shop - whether it's exactly what you've desired, or something that takes you completely by surprise. In one Belgian thrift shop though, something entirely unexpected caught the eye of staff, leading to an online sleuth-fest searching for the mysterious woman they found photographed with all the famous faces of the day in an album that appeared from nowhere.
Initial thoughts were 'superfan', for the staff in Mortsel's Opnieuw & Co thrift store. There was something amiss though. The lady looked happy, but not crazed as many celebrity hunters often do.
Disarming and ambiguous, her presence beguiled those who looked upon this bizarre treasure trove of old photographs that had ended up in the shop. Who was she? Where did they come from? Her calm demeanour gave off the air of someone connected, as if she was happy, but not thrilled to meet them. Maybe an agent, or someone else behind the scenes.
With ideas swirling, staff took the route that most of us would in this day and age - the internet. Uploading the photographs with some context, the search was on and it ended with one eagle-eyed 'net detective being able to spot and read the name on a tag she had in one of the photographs. The mystery was no more.
The truth was, in many ways, a composite of many of the theories. Her name is Maria Snoeys-Lagler, a former member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association - best known for their annual awards ceremony - the Golden Globes.
The HFPA is a non-profit of photographers and journalists who report on all things Hollywood, particularly in countries outwith the United States. Despite having no idea how it got there, the story captured the hearts and minds of the Belgian public who, through a major television channel, were able to locate Maria's daughter.
Maria passed away in 2016, at the age of 87 and it's thought that the album ended up in the shops hands (who rely on donations to keep the workspace afloat for its refugee or otherwise unemployed workers) by some series of chance, rather than voluntarily given.
After finding her daughter, the deeply personal and highly engaging photo album has been returned to her - a special memory of her mother and her work. Given the actor's warmth around her, Maria's character manages to shrine through not in her expressions, but in those of the people she's been captured with.
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