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

29 January, 2014

Caught in Traffic

Ah, the good old days, when traffic was... as bad as now, apparently, just with different cars. 

Yale Joel, LIFE © Time Inc.

New York, Major Deegan Expressway, 1958. Source

Nationaal Archief

Holland, 1964. Source

Gordon Parks, LIFE © Time Inc.

A traffic jam in Paris, 1951. Source

Dmitri Kessel, LIFE © Time Inc.

Houston, Texas, 1946. Source

Al Fenn, LIFE © Time Inc.

Heavy truck traffic due to a railway strike, New York, 1951. Source

US National Archives

Honolulu, Hawaii, 1973. Source

William C. Shrout, LIFE © Time Inc.

New York City, 51st Street, 1945. Source

Carl Mydans, LIFE © Time Inc.

Regent Street, London, 1954. Source

Dmitri Kessel, LIFE © Time Inc.

Bangkok, 1950. Source

Co Rentmeester, LIFE © Time Inc.

Traffic in the downtown of an unnamed city in Indonesia, 1966. Source

Andreas Feininger, LIFE © Time Inc.

New York, pre-Christmas traffic on 5th Ave (including many double-decker buses!). 1948. Source

Michael Rougier, LIFE © Time Inc.

Greenville, Texas, 1948. Source

Andreas Feininger, LIFE © Time Inc.

Traffic Jam (no location given), 1951. Source

Andreas Feininger, LIFE © Time Inc.

New York City, 5th Ave, 1959. Source

Loomis Dean, LIFE © Time Inc.

Los Angeles, 1949. Source

William C. Shrout, LIFE © Time Inc.

New York, 1945. Source

Andreas Feininger, LIFE © Time Inc.

New York, 1954. Source

Cornell Capa, LIFE © Time Inc.

A messy traffic jam in Boston, 1949. Source

Ralph Crane, LIFE © Time Inc.

New York, Long Island Expressway, 1969. Source

Loomis Dean, LIFE © Time Inc.

Los Angeles (with a boy selling newspapers amongst the cars), 1947. Source

26 January, 2014

More Soldiers Sleeping

A sequel to this post (from almost two years ago now-- where does time go?). I always find photographs of soldiers asleep very touching. This photograph of a young soldier asleep in a WWI trench, in fact, is partially responsible for getting me so into old photographs. The emotional effect, for me, comes partly from the sense of sheer exhaustion you get from the men's poses, conveying the physical pressures of war, but even more so from the contrast between relaxed, sleeping, usually very young faces, and the context surrounding them-- the conditions and military apparel you see in the photographs as well as the wider wartime context the photograph fits into. Asleep, these men don't look like hardened soldiers off to fight for their lives; they look like young men who should be sleeping somewhere much better, not caught up in a war at all. 

© IWM (TR 1520)

A British lieutenant sleeps in the hay during fighting in Italy, 1944. Source

Larry Burrows, LIFE © Time Inc.

An American soldier asleep in Cambodia, 1970. Source

LIFE © Time Inc.

British soldier sleeping in a shallow foxhole in the Libyan desert, 1941. Source

23 January, 2014

The Secret Lives of Pennies

I have to admit, I love the "filler" stories from LIFE magazine. There's dramatic, insightful, though-provoking photo-essays... and there's tests on cooperation in cats, pet lemurs, and Parisians drinking Coca-Cola. Most of these kinds of stories would only have a few pictures in the published magazine, somewhere in the middle to back, surronded by ads-- but thanks to the online LIFE archives, we can enjoy the silliness/banality to its fullest! 

This picture story is apparently concerned with pennies, and what you can do with them.

Photographs from 1953, taken by Nina Leen. 

Nina Leen, LIFE © Time Inc.

A store receiving their week's worth of pennies, with police escort. Source

Nina Leen, LIFE © Time Inc.

Tea bags you can buy for one cent each. Source

Nina Leen, LIFE © Time Inc.

Boxes of matches 2 for a penny. Source

20 January, 2014

Wanted Posters of the 19th Century (With Photographs)

The Nova Scotia Archives has a terrific collection of wanted posters from 1868-1888 (assembled in a scrapbook from the time period), and something I find especially fascinating is the number containing photographs, even at this relatively early date in the history of photography. The photographs appear to come from prior studio sessions of the individuals in question, probably either reprinted (studios kept negatives on file) or re-photographed from a carte-de-visite or cabinet card and printed for the posters. It's an interesting contrast, the genteel carte-de-visite portrait paired with the crimes their sitters are accused of. 

Nova Scotia Archives

Nova Scotia Archives

Nova Scotia Archives

17 January, 2014

Canadian Army Women of WW2 (in Colour!)

The Canadian Woman's Army Corps (CWAC), was the women's branch of the Canadian military founded in WW2, similar to the American Women's Army Corps (WAC). Though CWACs had strictly non-combatant roles, many served outside the country in the United States, the UK, Italy, and northwest Europe. The CWAC was disbanded in 1964, when women in service were merged into the main Canadian army. 

The majority of these photographs seem to have been taken during or just after World War Two, probably mostly for promotional and/or recruitment purposes. Thanks to the format of Kodachrome transparency, the colours are just about as bright now as they were then. 

(Unrelated note-- after almost three years I finally realized how/why to make jump breaks, so posts will now appear shorter on the blog main page (a big plus if you, like me, have a crummy computer/internet connection that doesn't like too many images!). Don't forget to click "read more", though-- still as many images per post as ever!)

CWAC in Holland see capture # 9. (item 1)
Credit: Canada. Department of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada

CWACs in Holland. Source

CWAC in Holland see capture # 3. (item 1)
Credit: Canada. Department of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada

A CWAC with flowers in Holland. Source

CWAC Saluting. (item 1)
Credit: Canada. Department of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada

CWACs salute. Source

05 January, 2014

Photographs in Terrible Condition

Most old photographs haven't lasted that well.If you have old family photographs, you don't have to go very far back to see colours changing, black and white photos fading and getting silver, scratches and creases and fingerprints. We get used to our older photos looking like this, even if they didn't look like that originally. However, most of the photographs we see from institutional collections are the ones in better condition, the ones where the deterioration has a lesser impact on the image. This is something of a mis-representation-- a lot of the ones in the collection do have deterioration that impacts the image. While it's totally understandable that large collections have to prioritize what to digitize and share online, it's also refreshing to see collections (usually archival ones) where the bad ones are digitized and shared just like the rest. The changing appearance of a photograph, even if it's negative, bears testament to the chemical and societal aspects of that photograph. 

On a less academic level-- sometimes deterioration looks just really cool. A pristine daguerreotype is wonderful, but a bit of rainbow tarnish around the edges can be quite beautiful. Between the silver and the binding and the base material, all kinds of weird stuff can happen. I encountered a box of unexposed dry glass negative plates from the late 19th century that had gone into these bizarre magenta patterns (I will try to remember to photograph this one day!). Emulsions peel off, negatives break, mould patterns grow. Sometimes the result is beautiful, sometimes intriguing, sometimes bizarre. 

All that said-- here is a selection of badly deteriorated photographs that I find visually fascinating!

A lot of these are digitally inverted negatives (digital technology is amazing for this-- giving access to an image you'd never be able to print!), accounting for some of the bizarre deterioration. The emulsion on a glass plate negative can lift, flake, crack, and shrink; nitrate negatives curl and crinkle and do all kinds of weird things as they disintegrate. I don't know specifically what's going on with a lot of these, but definitely those tendencies are factors in many. Mould seems to be a factor in quite a few as well (mould can grow on any kind of photograph with organic material, which is most of them except daguerreotypes). Some of them I don't have the faintest idea. I've included the material/process when it's noted, but I'm not even going to try to guess. 

Costică Acsinte Archive

Glass plate negative. Source

Bibliothèque de Toulouse

The nurse of the Propper (Santander) children, Luchon, 1895. Collodion glass transparency. Source

Bibliothèque de Toulouse

"Maison à tourelles, Uzerche." Glass plate negative.  Source

02 January, 2014

Posters, Photographed

While I love looking at old posters reproduced or displayed individually, this kind of presentation is often vastly different from the posters' original context. I always find it fascinating to see photographs of posters in situ, to see the places they were posted and the other posters they were displayed with (almost always many others, or repeats of the same). This blog has already had posts of wartime posters on the street and two editions of London Transport posters; today, a variety. 

National Library of Ireland

Ireland, ca. 1898. Source

Berenice Abbott, New York Public Library

Film posters outside a cinema in New York City, 1936. Source

Yale Joel, LIFE © Time Inc.

This only comes with the general subject heading "Posters - Greyhound Bus Poster - New York". Presumably 1960s. Source

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