History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. ~Winston Churchill

27 February, 2013

Cornwall by Photochrom

Our favourite photolithographic process is back! Yes, the photochrom, today bringing us views of Cornwall, England. Cornwall is the subject this time around because English photochroms are fairly new on the LoC's Flickr photostream, it's a wonderful place to visit, and I have ancestry there. In fact my great-great grandfather was just leaving about the time these were being made.

ca. 1890s-1900. 

Library of Congress

St. Ives. Source

Library of Congress

The entrance to the harbour at Boscastle. Source

Library of Congress

Calstock, Morwell Rock. Source

25 February, 2013

Action on the Western Front

The misery of World War One is a recurring theme in this blog, with the implicit question "how could they make anyone go through this hell?". Today we have a new installment, from a new source. The majority of World War One photographs here have been official British photographs (from the National Library of Scotland), made within specific guidelines to be published in the press. While there are nonetheless some striking action shots, and the overall misery can't be denied, their depictions of the war are heavily influenced by the vision the government wanted to project--a), that these men are heroes, and b) overall it's not that bad. Most action scenes are posed and/or performed for the camera in back-line trenches.  Well-fed and smiling faces are emphasized, as are peaceful scenes. Most photographs of wounded soldiers emphasize the care they are given. Dead bodies are always identified as Germans; the British dead are pictured only in graves. We've looked also at some Australian WWI photographs, American ones, and even French autochromes, all fitting into this trend. 

Recently, though, I found a set of Canadian WWI photographs, from Library and Archives Canada (who are on Flickr, but not the Commons). Though the named photographers-- William Ivor Castle, Henry Edward Knobels, and William Rider-Rider-- were official photographers, there seem to be quite a few different kinds of views. Notably there are more action shots, taken under fire, more similar to later photojournalist war photography. (even if, as should be noted, shots were sometimes altered-- shrapnel bursts from one photograph's sky might have been added to that of a another). Overall there seems to be a more frank depictions of the honesty of war than in the British official photographs, which I feel is worth a long look.

Library and Archives Canada

Troops dig themselves in while shrapnel bursts overhead, Vimy Ridge, 1917. Source

Library and Archives Canada

A tank in a muddy, shelled landscape, Passchendaele, 1917. Source

Library and Archives Canada

The battlefield near Courcelette, October 1916. Source

23 February, 2013

Japan, Tinted

People have been tinting photographs since the beginning of photographs, from touches of colour on the cheeks and lips of a daguerreotype, to splashes on cloth in a carte-de-visite, to intense dyes on commerical hand-tinted postcards. Sometimes the effect is subtle, sometimes garish, sometimes exceptionally beautiful. Today's photographs are the last. 

This set of photographs was taken by Japanese photographer Kusakabe Kimbei in the late nineteenth century. As most of his clients were foreign, and the scenes emphasize traditional activities and costumes, I beleive it is likely that they were produced as views for visitors to Japan to take home, though I'm not certain. The collection to which they belong, the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego, says nothing either way, unfortunately. If I discover more in the future I shall update.

All captions are the titles given by the Museum of Photographic History.

Museum of Photographic Arts

A Tete-a-Tete. Source

Museum of Photographic Arts

A Family Group. Source

Museum of Photographic Arts

A Summer Day in the Woods. Source

20 February, 2013

On the Newsstands

Simply, photographs of newsstands in former days!

(I like to play "spot the LIFE magazine" for those from 1936 onwards).

Note for those interested: All but two of the Library of Congress ones are FSA/OWI photographs--apparently it was a popular theme.

Dmitri Kessel, LIFE © Time Inc.

A man at a newsstand in Athens, Greece, 1948. Source

Mark Kauffman, LIFE © Time Inc.

A newsstand in Shanghai, 1947. Source

Dmitri Kessel, LIFE © Time Inc.

Another Greek newsstand, 1948. Source

18 February, 2013

Advertising the Turn of the Century

Beautifully designed advertising posters from the collection of the New York Public Library. All dated c. 1897-1917. 

New York Public Library

"Blue Seal" Birch Beer. Source

New York Public Library

Mobile and Ohio Dining Cars, 1902. Source

New York Public Library

Black and White cigars. Source

16 February, 2013

The Colours of Nighttime New York

The bright lights of New York City, as seen by LIFE photographer Andreas Feininger. Though they didn't come with a date, the movie marquees in some of the shots reveal it's 1945. I haven't determined if any of these ran in LIFE, but Feininger is known for the photographs of New York he took for the magazine (many of these, for instance). 

Andreas Feininger, LIFE © Time Inc.

Andreas Feininger, LIFE © Time Inc.

Andreas Feininger, LIFE © Time Inc.

14 February, 2013

Love and LIFE

Kisses from the LIFE archives for Valentine's Day. 

Ed Clark, LIFE © Time Inc.

Actress Ava Gardner kisses a man, North Carolina, 1949. Source

Alfred Eisenstaedt, LIFE  © Time Inc.

A couple kissing in side Sammy's Bowery Follies, NYC, 1942. Source

Eliot Elisofon, LIFE © Time Inc.

Sailor kissing a girl at a Navy luau, Hawaii, 1945. Source

11 February, 2013

Valentine's Day Postcards Part Two

Another set of Valentine's Day postcards from the New York Public Library collections. Mailed yours yet?

From the 1900s to 1920s.

New York Public Library

Unwritten and unmailed. Source

New York Public Library

Postmarked 1910. Source

New York Public Library

Written in a Scandinavian language, postmarked 1912 (from Minnesota). Source

09 February, 2013

Valentine's Day Postcards Part One

Another holiday, another set of holiday postcards from the New York Public Library collection! Two, actually-- I wanted to include so many I split them into half for managability. So stay tuned!

From the 1900s and 1910s. 

On the back: "I love the little birds that sing/ And every flower that blooms in spring. Clarence." Source

New York Public Library

Unwritten and undated. Source

New York Public Library

On the back: "Take this in place of the bouquets I need to gather for you. Elizabeth." Postmarked 1909. Source

04 February, 2013

Stereographs of Love

Another romance-themed post, this time through the eyes (or stereoviewer) of the Edwardians. Like the postcards, these stereographs are highly posed, though even more sentimental. Some are rather cute and a couple are even quite risque for the time (though still far from the outright sexuality of these 1920s stereographs). Unfortunately these reproductions from the Library of Congress only show half of the stereograph, losing the effect. Nor are they the best quality, being fairly old, black and white copy negatives. Still, pretty fun!

Mostly published 1906, unless otherwise noted. 

Library of Congress

"Sovereigns of love's domain." Source

Library of Congress

"He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not." Source

Library of Congress

"By the old tree." Source

02 February, 2013

Romance Postcards of the 1920s

Of course at this blog we love love, so despite my general indifference to Valentine's Day, we're going to have a series of romance-themed posts leading up to it. Today, a selection from my personal collection. Hand-coloured photo postcards like these were popular from the late 1900s to the early 1930s, though the romance ones were especially big in the 1920s and 1930s. They were made in France, but quite popular in England as well. 

The dyes are exceptionally bright, brighter in person than in reproduction. Some of them also have a metallic sheen. Many are written, but in French (of which I know very little) so full/better translations will have to wait. Interestingly, none of the written ones were mailed or intended to be (no address, writing over the spot for the stamp, etc), so they must have been given to the recipients. I am still working on researching the social context, but for now, aren't they grand? 

[Since the original post I have collected several hundred of these cards and done a heap of research with them-- visit my site Mille Baisers for an online collection and more information!)

Personal collection

The handwriting is this one is very hard to read but with words like "beloved" and "tender" in it (in French), I think we can say it's a love note. 

Personal collection

Dated the 29th of September, but no year. "In response to your sweet letter, take my dearest love, my best kisses, and my good thoughts.Soon, Marie." (translated)

Personal collection

Dated 17 June, 1924. The back is packed with writing in purple ink from Raymond to Irene.

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