Friday, 8 September 2017

118 : A Crisp And The Co-op

Brighouse Industrial Society was the name given to the local co-operative society which was founded in the 1850s. By the end of the century there were branches throughout the district and it was one of the most important retail enterprises in the area selling everything from clothing to coffins, groceries to galoshes. I am not sure how I acquired the membership card of Mrs Crisp, but it is a fine piece of historical ephemera - a little work of art in its own right. 

Monday, 4 September 2017

117 : United In Thought

There is something rather thoughtful about this man who sat in front of the studio camera at A & G Taylor's studio in Newcastle one hundred and thirty some years ago. If I screw my eyes up, I can see him today - sat on the train, thinking about Brexit, or how he will pay his Council Tax, or the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Men divided by more than a century but united in thought.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

116 : Photoshopping The Genetic Code

The Crooked Man
There is something wrong with the stance of this subject of a studio portrait from either the late Victorian or the Edwardian period. His head is off-centre and one shoulder does not match the other. It is almost as though someone had photoshopped the genetic code and not done a very good job of it.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

115 : A Woman Of Substance

A Dickensian Woman Of Substance
There is something oddly Dickensian about this unknown woman who appears in a studio print from the early part of the twentieth century. I suppose when she was younger she might have had a walk-on part in one of the latter works by Dickens, but that is merely my imagination running away with itself like one of those new-fangled automobiles. She has the look of a "woman of substance"; a woman who could stop an automobile in its tracks.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

114 : More For Less In Carnarvon

The Castle And Square, Carnarvon
Vintage postcards from the first decade of the twentieth century always seem to accentuate the shape of the built environment. It has a lot to do with the absence of bright metallic motor cars and the comparative modesty of shop awnings and street furniture. I was in this square a couple of years ago, and there were far too many things to see - which meant you saw much less.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

113 : Expressionism

Mother And Six : Print Of Unknown Family
I have no idea who this mother and six children are, but they have brought along to the studio session such an assortment of expressions, it is a joy to behold. There is serious, suspicious, friendly, cheeky and unapologetically happy. Mother seems proud - and so she should be.

Friday, 18 August 2017

112 : Don't Feed The Band


I have no idea who these two are, but that doesn't matter. It is a captured moment so real, so vibrant, that you can almost imagine that you were there, that you know these two musicians well, that the echo of their song still rings in your ears. I'd certainly "feed 'em".

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

111 : Half Plate Family

This is a scan of a half-plate negative - but I suspect it was a picture of an even older print. The negative was quite something, however: the size of a slice of bread and on plastic as thick as a pair of safety glasses.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

110 : If Only The Grain Didn't Get In The Way

A street scene with a tempting bus that will show the location - if only it could be enlarged enough, if only the grain didn't get in the way.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

109 : A Difficult Art To Master

This photograph of a young man comes from the Dutch Studio, Filiaal, of Kalverstraat 124, Amsterdam. More directly, it came from a lot of Victorian photographs bought on eBay. It is a fine example of experiments in hand-colouring photographs. It must have been an early experiment - the colours are a little too vivid and the brushwork is a little too crude. Having conducted similar experiments over a century later - using Photoshop rather than paint brushes - I have ever sympathy with the experimenter : it is a difficult art to master.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

108 : Impressionism

Images within images are always fascinating. By the time this image of just one of the children featured in this Victorian photograph from my collection is enlarged, little detail remains. It stops being a photograph and starts a new life as an impression - still full of meaning, still full of history.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

107 : Look Now At Lucknow

British Residency, Lucknow, India

This must be one of the oldest photographs in my collection, dating back to, at least, the 1880s. On the reverse is pencilled "Residency, Lucknow", and a quick image search confirms that it is indeed the ruins of the British Residency which was destroyed during the siege of Lucknow in 1857.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

106 : Two Smiling Theatricals


Two more smilers, but this time I suspect there are differences. First of all we have, I think, two women here. Secondly, I suspect that this photograph is later than the previous one - probably dating from the 1920s rather than the Victorian era. And thirdly, I suspect that the backdrop is not a photographic studio backdrop but a theatrical backdrop - and therefore we can realistically conclude that we have two smiling theatricals

Monday, 17 July 2017

105 : Why Victorians Rarely Smiled


This Victorian couple are both smiling, which is rare for photographs of this age. It wasn't just that Victorians weren't all that into smiling, it was also that photographers discouraged facial expressions that could not easily be maintained for the lengthy shutter times that were needed back then.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

104 : Round Old Woman


She has a round face and round glasses. One is tempted to believe that if we could see the rest of her the round theme would be continued. And she is still around after more than one hundred years thanks to an old, found photograph.

Monday, 3 July 2017

103 : Rendezvous In Dunure


I seem to have met two of these three before - in another found photograph, in another place, in another time.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

102 : Style And Some Pen Strokes

This is a late nineteenth century Carte de Visite (CdV) from the studio of Rudolph Tiffee of Cleve , a German town a few miles from the German-Dutch border.In many ways it is fairly typical of the studio portraits of the time, although the subject has a more stylish sense of dress than many of his British equivalents of the time. And if you look really carefully - around the moustache and whiskers - you can see where the studio have added a few extra pen strokes in order to emphasise the hair growth!

Thursday, 20 April 2017

101 : A Deckchair Suspended High Above A Pine Forest

This scanned negative comes from the same set as the Jersey series, but this time our holidaymakers have left domestic shores and, it would appear, gone to the Alps. Looking at the scene through twenty-first century eyes, one cannot help noticing the flimsiness of the chairlift - it has the look of a deckchair suspended from wires high above a pine forest. After the comparative safety of a Jersey beach and tearoom our 1950 tourists are living life dangerously.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

100 : You Never Quite Know

And then we went to Newquay. It was the year after the holiday in Jersey (or perhaps it was the year before) And we didn't go with the big crowd this time, it was just Jeff and me (or was it Colin or Frank). That's the trouble with lost and found negatives - you never quite know. But that certainly is the famous footbridge in Newquay - just behind our Betty (or was it Joan)?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

99 : Teatime In Jersey

A further scan from the photographs of a group of friends who, by now, are becoming rather familiar to us - it's the Jersey Boys (and Jersey Girls). We can tell they are still on the island from the lifebuoy hanging conveniently just in shot. I can make out Jersey and the other word might well be "harbour" - and the wall at the back certainly has the strength and solidity of a typical harbour wall.

​Once again, a rough guess at the date would come up with the mid 1950s - that half smoked cigarette tucked behind the ear is as accurate a marker as any date stamp.

Monday, 17 April 2017

98 : We've Been To Corbiere Light

There is always an element of pleasing mystery when you buy a job lot of old photographs or negatives from one of the on-line auction sites. There are the usual "what", "where", and "who" questions - most of which will inevitably go unanswered - but there is also the question of what connects the various images. Are they the same family, the same holiday, the same photography - or are they a desperate lot thrown together from the contents of several old shoeboxes? 

When I started scanning the current batch< i came across a beach scene which could be accurately identified as St Brelade's Bay in Jersey. The second scan moves us a few miles along the coast, to the unforgettable landmark of La Corbiere Lighthouse. A good percentage of visitors to the island of Jersey have had a similar photograph taken (I certainly have). Who exactly this is, I still have no idea - but I know where she's been.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

97 : Group On The Beach : Midbay

"Midbay" has a slightly un-British ring to it, more fitted, perhaps, to an Australian surf-pounded beach or a location in a Raymond Chandler novel. But the people featured in this scan of a long-lost negative of unknown origins, have a half-familiar feel to them - they are faces from my youth, stances from my memories. Midbay was relatively easy to pin down - there is a Midbay in St Brelade's Bay on the island of Jersey. A comparison with an on-line archive shot of the Midbay stores confirms the location. Who the group are, I have absolutely no idea at all, but it is the kind of photograph you can take a stroll around - look at a face here, a connection there. Even the smallest, most grain-infested corner can be turned into an impressionist's picnic.

Friday, 14 April 2017

96 : A Confident Confectioner

There is such an air of confidence about this young chap - legs crossed, hands firmly pocketed and a smile that radiates satisfaction. The small, faded photograph came to me as a lost and unloved - but how could anyone not love this epitome of a 1920s delivery boy. A little research reveals that the firm must be that of W G Pannett who were confectioners in Horsham, West Sussex. Now that we have a name and location, perhaps somebody will step forward and claim him.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

94 : A Grander Hat

A second photograph was in the same batch of unwanted and unloved photographs that arrived through my letterbox. The hat may not be bigger than the first, but it is definitely grander. The outfit appears to have enough fur and feathers to kit out a turkey. The costumes alone would demand all the resources of a modern credit card.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

93 : Big Frame, Big Hat, Little Photograph

What do you do if you can only afford a little photograph? Well you can make sure you are wearing a big hat for starters. And then you can get a big frame. But even with the big hat and big frame, the final product is only about the size of a modern credit card.

Monday, 10 April 2017

92 : Six Hats And A Roadster

I am not quite sure what a "roadster" was, but surely this must have been one. Mud guards that have the curves of an Impressionist's model, a steering wheel that looks as if it was designed for serious steering, and a running board every young buck would want to jump upon. And within it there is a party going on, and everyone has put their best hat on for the occasion. I suspect that the photograph dates from the mid 1920s, and the rest of the photographs in this eBay purchase were definitely British. Usually you can pin cars down by the position of the steering wheel, but this one seems to be covering all options by having a central wheel.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

91 : Midget Gems

This small Victorian portrait card measures just 2.5 by 1.5 inches and was of a size known, appropriately enough, as a midget. Such cards never achieved the popularity of their larger cousins - the carte-de-visite and the cabinet card - but they were popular for a time in the 1890s because they were significantly cheaper than the larger cards. In the early 1890s, Henry Spinks would sell you a dozen midget cards for just four shillings and sixpence. Who this particular midget is, I have no idea: but she is a midget gem.

Friday, 31 March 2017

90 : Before The End

This is the kind of photograph you could write a book about. It tells of days at the estuary in the early 1920s. The children were young and mother was visiting. We were happy then. Before it happened. Before the end came.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

89 : The Slimline Progeny Of A Carte-de-Visite

This is a strange little thing - a Victorian pasteboard portrait, about a third of the size of a normal carte de visite. It measures 7.5 cm by 3.5 cm and I have found some mention of this size in the literature and such miniature portraits are sometimes known as minettes. They are not too dissimilar in size to a modern day visiting card and such things are, I guess, the great-grandchildren of carte-de-visites.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

88 : Not Exactly Hollywood

This photograph comes with best love to Mary and Willie - but from whom? We will never know - but we do know the photograph was taken in January 1936 at the splendidly named Los Angeles Portrait Studios in Edinburgh. Despite the fine sounding name, there is something a little slap-dash about the portrait: those distracting gloves, the lighting stand that has crept into the lower right corner, and the shadow of something to the left. It's not exactly Hollywood.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

87 : From A Different Epoch

I suspect that this studio photograph was taken in the 1920s - hardly twenty years after the Victorian and Edwardian portraits I have often featured here before. But what a change - the face, the clothes, the pose, the look. It is a photograph from a different epoch.

Monday, 27 March 2017

86 : From The Studios Of Walter Morice

This Edwardian Cabinet Card of an unknown couple comes from the studios of Walter Morice (1862-1942). He was born in the King Cross area of London and by the time he was twenty he had established a photographic studio in Lewisham High Road. In 1899 he moved his studios, and his residence, to Rushey Green, Catford, in South East London and he remained there until his retirement in 1926.

I would guess that this particular portrait dates from just after the move to Catford. The fact that the woman is wearing what appears to be mourning clothes might suggest that it was taken in the immediate aftermath of the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901.

The lack of any type of studio background and the lack of the studio props that were popular in earlier decades also suggests a portrait towards the end of the studio card era.

Monday, 20 March 2017

85 : The Trip Outside

If there is a clear visual marker of the boundary between professional and amateur photography in the  late nineteenth and early twentieth century, it is the trip outside. Professional photographers were studio based and their portraits tended to be formal affairs with drapes, chairs and prop vases. When photography became an amateur hobby, photographers had to go outside in order to achieve the necessary light levels for the technical requirements of the time. This unknown family is a perfect example of that trip outside.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

84 : Bridge Over The River

These are scans of two medium format negatives that appeared in my collection from somewhere. They certainly are not mine, no do they belong to anyone in the family. The two negatives were joined and therefore we can assume they are of the same city. There is quite obviously a major river crossing and a military presence - and a certain middle eastern look to the dress of the locals. Could this possibly be Egypt in the 1950s?

Friday, 10 March 2017

83 : Emerging Towers And Cannons

This is a scan of a tiny print - not much bigger than an oversize postage stamp - which cannot be blamed for getting lost, falling down the back of a drawer, or whatever. It was so faded, the subject was completely indistinguishable from the background sepia blur.  But scanned and repaired, fixed and tweaked - London in the 1920s emerges like it is emerging from a thick London fog. You can just make out Tower Bridge in the distance and that is the bulk of Cannon Street Station in the foreground. The photograph must have been taken from the top of St Paul's Cathedral.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

82 : Teasing Out A Story

This is not a picture from nowhere - it is a picture from the photographic studios of Jac Uebach in Krefeld, Germany. Known as the "city of silk and velvet", Krefeld is the centre of Germany's textile industry. The production of such fine textiles depends on the careful teasing out of fine threads : just the kind of skill that was needed to produce a splendid moustache like the one in the photograph.

120 : Grandfather And Child

Grandfather And Child : Unknown Subject (Dated 1932)