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

26 February, 2014

Broken Glass Plate Negatives

Another look at the ways a photograph's deterioration can have a striking effect on its image. From the 1850s to about the 1920s, the majority of photographic negatives were made on glass, coated with a collodion or gelatin emulsion. Though glass negatives capture a lot of detail, they are also bulky, heavy... and breakable. Broken glass plate negatives are not uncommon, particularly in the collections of archives where image content is considered especially important. Digitization has been a terrific boon for these broken plates, allowing the images to be put back together and viewed in a way that often is no longer possible another way. The creation of a digital positive is sometimes especially interesting in these cases, as the missing parts of the negative end up rendered black, creating an interesting visual. The cracks themselves can have a striking effect on the image, breaking the illusion of the photograph as an unmodified glimpse of reality. 

Bibliothèque de Toulouse

Porte d'Aude, Carcassonne, France, about 1859-1910. Source

US National Archives

Men gambling, Montana, US, 1909. Source

Costică Acsinte Archive

People with horses, no date. Source

23 February, 2014

Adventures in Wintersport

The end of another Winter Olympics! I really love the Winter Olympics-- for a lot of reasons (one of the big ones being I'm Canadian and we're good at them, haha), but most relevantly because they get us to watch and actually care about the kinds of winter sports most people never even think about otherwise. This blog has already covered such standard sports as skiing, skating, and hockey, so this post is dedicated to those 'weird' ones (plus a few classics I couldn't resist... plus a few winter sports just too weird for the Olympics!). 

We'll start with one of the odder (and one of my favourites): aerials! I have no idea when aerials became a 'proper' sport, but these fellows were certainly doing an early version of it in the 1950s!

J. R. Eyerman, LIFE © Time Inc.

Idaho, US, 1952. Source

J. R. Eyerman, LIFE © Time Inc.

Skier Jack Reddish, Idaho, 1952. Source

J. R. Eyerman, LIFE © Time Inc.

Skier Stein Eriksen, no date. Source

20 February, 2014

On the Telephone

Photos from the days when people actually used telephones to talk!

Nina Leen, LIFE © Time Inc.

A woman on the phone at work, US, 1947. Source

William C. Shrout, LIFE © Time Inc.

Chief of the Air Corps Henry H. Arnold on the phone at his desk in the War Office, 1940. Source

Martha Holmes, LIFE © Time Inc.

Children phoning "Santa Claus" at Schwartz's toy store, 1947. Source

17 February, 2014

Cigarette Card Animals

From the mid 19th century to about the 1940s, cigarette cards were a common feature of cigarette packets. They would be published in series (usually 25 or 50), encouraging smokers to buy more from the same brand. Now, I don't condone smoking in any way-- but a lot of them are really great! The good old New York Public Library (this blog's star collection of the month, apparently!) has tens of thousands, a huge number of which are digitized. I am definitely going to be featuring these on a regular basis from now on! Today, a cute, silly series featuring animals and well-known phrases (from nursery rhymes to cliches to ad slogans). They are photomechanical reproductions of probably heavily retouched photos-- no date is provided but as one includes the phrase "back up your troubles in your old kit bag," from a song written in 1915, they must date from after that. My guess is 1915-1930.

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

14 February, 2014

Love Songs of the 1890s

For Valentine's Day! A selection of illustrated covers to popular love songs of the late 19th century (and 1901). 

Back in the days before any form of recording, sheet music was the popular way to take music home for repeated enjoyment. The amazingly diverse collections of the New York Public Library include an immense collection of American sheet music spanning the 19th and 20th centuries-- thousands (from 1890 to 1922) have been digitized. Though this post only includes covers, all the sheet music itself can be accessed-- follow the source links if you are interested!

Since I"m a romantic, I've chosen the more romantic kinds of love songs for today. If you are feeling less than romantic, just have a browse through the 'love song' heading of the collection--there's plenty of heartbreak and cynicism as well, don't worry (I'm single too!). 

New York Public Library

1901. Source

New York Public Library

1894. Source

New York Public Library

1891. Source

10 February, 2014

Forever Blowing Bubble Gum

Mid-century photos of people enjoying bubble gum!

Cornell Capa, LIFE © Time Inc.

1947. Source

Cornell Capa, LIFE © Time Inc.

1947. Source

Cornell Capa, LIFE© Time Inc. 

Andrew J. Paris, the "Bubble Gum King," the first businessman to mass produce bubble gum after WWII (apparently he even has his own documentary!). 1947. Source

07 February, 2014

Fashion Drawings of the 1920s

The look of fashion drawings from the 1920s is perhaps more stylized than that of any other decade-- the elongated, impossibly slender women and the boldy simple patterns (though it is interesting to note the men often don't receive the same treatment). These kinds of drawings can be seen from Vogue covers to mail-order catalogues. I think they are terrific-- though it sometimes must have been disappointing to see the geometric lines disappear with a real dress on a real woman! 

From the Picture Collection of the New York Public Library. 

New York Public Library

Evening wear, 1921. Source

New York Public Library

Evening wear, 1922. Source

New York Public Library

Men's suits, 1920s. Source

04 February, 2014

Indigo Agonies

Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) was one of the first prominent female professional photographers in the United States, working mostly as a photojournalist and portrait photographer. The Library of Congress has about 20,000 of her prints and 3,700 thousand of her negatives, dating from the 1880s to 1940s (you can find the digitized photographs of the collection here). 

This post focuses on just a portion of her early work, printed in cyanotype form. I'm not sure how often these cyanotype prints were intended as a final form,  or if they were used purely as a proof prints or reference prints for negatives (as, for instance, these cyanotypes were). Some, it seems were put into personal books made by Johnston. 

Most photographs were taken in or around Washington D.C.

Library of Congress

The cover of one of these personal books, and the source of the title, "Indigo Agonies", which is great. The book, made in 1888, is from Johnston's very earliest days as a photographer; she became a professional shortly afterwards. The photograph depicts Johnston at her camera (see second to last image in this post). Source

Library of Congress

Photograph of women being photographed, ca. 1890. Source

Library of Congress

Students sketching at the edge of a pond, about 1899. Source

01 February, 2014

Spitfires, in Colour

This blog has seen a number of striking photographs depicting the Spitfire; today, more great photographs of the iconic Second World War plane--this time, in full colour!

© IWM (COL 189)

A Spitfire in flight over England, 1939-1945. Source

© IWM (COL 190)

Three Spitfires flying in formation over Essex, 1939-1945. Source

© IWM (TR 823)

Spitfires of the Royal Canadian Air Force in Tunisia, 1943. Source

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Search This Blog