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

31 March, 2013

Postcards of Easter

It's the part of the term where I go MIA, but I couldn't possibly let a holiday pass without a jaunt to the postcard collection of the New York Public Library! Especially when so many  of this holiday's are, quite frankly, bizarre. 

Happy Easter!

New York Public Library

Postmarked 1909. Source

New York Public Library

Unwritten. Source

New York Public Library

Postmarked 1909. Source

24 March, 2013


Though it's officially been spring for a few days now, the weather in some places (such as where I live) hasn't necessarily caught up. So for those of us who verge on insanity every time they see it snowing-- again!--, a set of pictures to remind us that it can in fact be fun. And for those lucky folks who do have spring--well, they're good fun pictures anyway!

University of Washington Libraries
Obviously this is staged, and I have my suspicions it may in fact be a studio shot altogether (that mountain looks suspiciously painterly...). I love it either way. 1920s, Washington (State). Source

Peter Stackpole, LIFE 

Kids sledding in Central Park, NYC, 1954. Source

Library of Congress

People sledding in Central Park again, ca. 1910 this time. Source

19 March, 2013

A sixteen-year old girl's photo album, 1947, Part Three

The next section of this 1947 photo album.

Some of the pages in this section are blank; I've reproduced them anyway for an accurate representation of the layout. I believe some of them once held pictures that have fallen out, as I have several in the same format, with the same people, same captions, and same bits of tape at the top. As albums are just as interesting for their creator's choice of layout as for the pictures, I have not attempted to put these back in, not knowing where they went. Most of them are pictures of Nancy and Barbara and their parents. 

17 March, 2013

A sixteen-year old girl's photo album, 1947

As promised, the first installment of a photo album newly digitized (by me). My grandmother made this in 1947, when she was sixteen. It's her choice of snapshots about her life, taped into a loosely bound album of 28 black pages. Most of the photos are captioned on the reverse. For sharing I've photographed each page in its entirety, then each individual photo and its caption. I'll do about six pages a post (a couple are blank) for the next three posts (hopefully equating to the next three days--I'll try!).

The album's creator is Nancy Gallagher, sometimes also captioned "Nan" (she captions herself in third person, for the ages). Her sister is Barbara. I don't know who any of the other named people are and unfortunately I never had the chance to ask. The family lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, though they also clearly took a trip to California at some point.

I love personal photo albums-- the way people structure the narrative of their lives is absolutely fascinating. I hope you think so too!

16 March, 2013

Blog Anniversary

Today marks the two-year anniversary of The Passion of Former Days! Hooray!!

San Diego Air and Space Museum

Ticker tape celebration! (actually for Charles Lindbergh, 1927. Source)

In two years we've had over 330 posts, 360,000 page views, and who knows how many thousands of pictures. I've gone from dabbler in the Flickr Commons to graduate student in Working With Photographs, as a direct result of this blog. I'm still amazed at all this and at all the wonderful people who follow and share and enjoy. I work very hard on this and it's so rewarding. 

For this anniversary week I have a special series of posts, exclusive to this blog. I'm lucky enough to have a photo album my grandmother made when she was sixteen, in 1947. It's packed full of photographs, arranged and captioned to present a view of her life at the time. I've gone through and photographed every page, photograph, and caption for preservation and sharing, so this week I shall be presenting that. It will start tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Finally, I thought I'd also commemorate today by a journey through some of the blog's most popular posts. At the bottom it gives the "top" 7, but a) I don't quite know how it decides that, because while all those are popular, their rating stats don't match the ones I get if I go through individual post views and b), pff, top 7? How about top 25

So, here are your 25 favourites, as of today!

1. Scotland by Photochrom

2. A Pet Ocelot 

3. Snow in Paris

13 March, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Postcards

An early St. Patrick's day post! In threeo days it's the anniversary of this blog and I've something special planned for the following days, including the 17th. But, of course, I can't let a holiday pass without dipping into the New York Public Library's collection of early twentieth century holiday postcards. So once again we have a wonderful collection of the lovely, the cheesy, and the odd. As usual I've noted any of the messages that go beyond "best wishes" or similar. To see the back in its entirety simply follow the source link and click the arrow to flip the object. 

So, happy early St. Patrick's Day!

New York Public Library

Postmarked 1932. Source

New York Public Library

Unwritten and unmailed. Source

New York Public Library

Unwritten and unsent. Source

10 March, 2013

The Studio Backdrop

Studio portraits are all well and good, but isn't that blank background boring? Wouldn't it be cool if you could look like you were in a fancy house or on the beach? This, pretty much, is what people were thinking right from the start of photography (there's daguerreotypes with painted backgrounds behind the sitters). These backdrops were especially popular in studio portraits of the nineteenth century. As handheld cameras and snapshots gained in popularity the backdrop began to fall out of fashion. After the first couple decades of the twentieth century you mostly only see painted backdrops in arcade photos and photobooth shots, but some studios kept using them until the mid-century. 

George Eastman House

A woman with a fancy interior backdrop, ca. 1895. Source

National Library of Ireland

Children and a toy wagon, Waterford, Ireland, 1906. Source

Library of Congress

Helen Saunders, 1914. Source

06 March, 2013

Montgomery Clift Watches Himself Onscreen

A series of photographs taken by J. R. Eyerman of actor Montgomery Clift while he watches himself onscreen. I love the concept of this series--taken on infrared film, so unobtrusive-- and Clift's range of expressions and poses in what's maybe two hours. 

Taken in 1948, right at the start of Clift's movie career (though he was already a Broadway veteran). In 1949 he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his first movie, The Search. From the one shot of the screen this film looks like it might be The Heiress, released in 1949. 

J. R. Eyerman, LIFE © Time Inc.

J. R. Eyerman, LIFE © Time Inc.

J. R. Eyerman, LIFE © Time Inc.

01 March, 2013

Daguerreotype Babies

From the first generation of babies to be captured by photograph!

 Average exposure time for a portraits in a well-lit studio during the Daguerrian era (1839-1860) was about 2-5 seconds, during which the sitter couldn't move or the picture would blur. Not bad for an adult sitter, but pretty well impossible for the little ones, let alone getting a pose, gaze, and preventing crying at parental separation. So just about every photograph from the time (well, most of the 19th century!) has a baby on a mother's lap. Sometimes she's a part of the picture and sometimes she's cropped out, or obscured, or even disguised as furniture!

George Eastman House

By Southworth and Hawes, Boston, ca. 1850. Source

Library of Congress

ca. 1855. Source

George Eastman House

By Southworth and Hawes, Boston, ca. 1850. Source

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