OMI in Blue

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Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There’s nothing like the blue of a cyanotype to add a bit of visual pleasure to an image. These (notably cat-less) images caught my eye for their particular attractive strangeness. I have been unable to pin the term OMI down specifically. I assume it is a fraternity, no specific tracks can be found – at least not by the folks here at Pictorama. Omi is also German for grandmother, and there also seems to be a use of it to refer to a diminutive high-energy (reads as somewhat annoying) person. Since we know that our O.M.I. bunch resided in St. Petersburg, PA the German allusion may make sense and tie out to this fraternity of sorts.

Neither of these cards were mailed and there is no writing on them, nor indication of the year they were made. Both are on the slightly fragile seeming cardboard that cyanotypes generally are found to be. (They required a porous paper, more like water color paper than photos are usually printed on.) To back up a moment, cyanotypes are literally “blueprints” made with ammonium iron and potassium ferricyanide. Founded as a process for reproducing things all the way back in 1842, it eventually enjoyed a somewhat limited, but persistent, use as a photographic medium into the early 20th Century.

Most striking for me is the array of costumes in the O.M.I. Bunch card on top. Frat boys, cadet type uniforms, a baseball uniform – the guy in whatever that athletic outfit of shorts might be – and of course the little fellow. O.M.I. sashes are worn by several. There are generally looking pretty pleased with themselves, especially the little guy with the sash which reaches the ground on him.

While I am very entertained by our boys in the car ready for their Automobile Tour, they are harder to see and the image is a bit blurry down one side. The car is the star here and it is enormous in the way that cars were at the time – like ships of the road. There are 7 seated in and around the car, and then the eighth gentleman perched on top of the hood. (I’m willing to assume some of the gents in the back are actually standing on a running board on that side, but the car still promises to hold a mass of people.) Their sense of adventure, as well as some pomp and circumstance, invokes the early days of car travel – as described in my post about the juvenile novels from the teens, The Automobile Girls. (Found in the post, Grace Harlowe, the Automobile Girls, and the Moving Picture Girls Novels.) I have pretty much located three men from the first photo appearing in this one – large hat guy, be-sweatered collegiate, and cadet with hat. I wonder where they went on their tour – was it far?

For those of you for who crave more cyanotype, I stumbled across a splendid small book a few years ago which is still available, Ipswich Days, Arthur Wesley Dow and His Hometown (this the link to the Amazon listing). It is just as described, an intimate look at a small town, turn-of-the-century by one man, rendered in cyanotype. Very pleasant indeed.

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