Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Poor Pictorama readers, I am proffering yet another murky tintype this week! Sorry! Kim has done his best with Photoshop, but I understand the limitations. Those of you who were devoted enough to come over and see it and what I have to say (and I thank you) may wonder why I persist and why I seem to find these somewhat irresistible.
First, for me there’s just nothing like seeing these giant examples of Felix and Mickey (or in the case of the recent post Riding the Big Bear a oversized Steiff-like bear) and admiring their oversized greatness. It gets me again and again with each one I find. I believe I have seen this Mickey before, but I have checked my files and it does not seem to be a photo I own, so it must have come and gone on eBay or passed by me on the internet. (He’s barely a Mickey – I think even Disney would have trouble with a trademark lawsuit against this guy. Can you see the big bow he is wearing?) However, I also love the idea that tintypes were still being made at fairs and things well into the 20th century. I think I would have been first in line.
I have made tintypes (wet plate photos) and the process, while fairly straightforward once you understand it, is not entirely uncomplicated, especially when executed outside. As far as I know, the makers of these had a pretty down and dirty process to churn them out, all day, everyday, and these have largely faded because the chemicals that fixed them were tired from overuse, and then probably washed in the equivalent of a dirty pail. It is a tiny bit miraculous to me that they can be made this way at all.
This photo has a tiny sticker, which under close examination, turns out to say A Century of Progress leading me to believe it was taken at the 1933-34 Chicago International Exposition or World’s Fair. (As is frequently the case – this is in a great holder which, if they sticker had been placed differently, had a spot where perhaps you could have written a name or a place below.) It is of course a bit ironic that at a World’s Fair representing a hundred years of progress, someone set up with such an old-fashioned souvenir stand for photos. After all, Kodak had made film available to the masses for three decades at that point, and perhaps color photos would have been a more appropriate for that modern age exposition. Still, for me, the tintype is undeniably special and maybe others agreed at the time, as clearly this one was kept safely all these years and has now found its way to me.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Interesting that this card would attract me. Those of you who know my taste in canines know that I run a strong preference toward large dogs – in fact, I really like the largest of the species – Tibetan mastiffs, German Shepherds and Bernese Mountain dogs. When it comes to dogs I like ’em to be more or less horse size. However, I admit to a weakening over time toward adorable little mops like this girl here. Clearly she is someone’s prized and beloved companion – beribboned and quite literally on a pedestal here. Her name, Floss, has been neatly painted onto the neg to be printed on the card. I could be wrong, but I don’t think she’s a youngster either.
While the history of carrying a small dog seems to go way back in time (for example ancient China – and I gather from Wikipedia that in earlier times small dogs were kept to attract fleas away from their owners, rather than the other way around) there came a moment in our culture when suddenly toting a small dog around as an accessory came into fashion for the wealthy and never really went away. It was a status symbol – although I have always found it a slightly odd one admittedly. I think of films from the 40’s where as soon as a woman character actor, generally not the star, strikes it rich, she suddenly has a jolly little dog under her arm for decoration. (This is not Asta I am thinking of!) While it is no longer limited to ladies in long dresses with ropes of pearls drinking tea, the lap dog out in the world still conjures up a feminine image of a certain kind now too.
Sometimes I am jealous of how in general in Manhattan people take their dogs everywhere, but of course, most cats stay at home. (Cats on leashes and my nascent attempts at that I will save for another time.) And of course it is dogs of all sizes that one sees, but the little dogs, often tucked in special tote bags, although occasionally in dog-styled strollers, that one sees everywhere – from subway to supermarket, dining outdoors. Those pups get to see the town while my cats are home snoozing.
However, as for Floss, I’m sure she was someone’s devoted pal and this photo is a lasting tribute. Good doggie!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Obviously it was the weird cat toy (at least I think it is a cat) on this oddball card that attracted me – strange, mysterious and sewn toy smile on his face, perched on that very worn ball toy. It must have been quite a day at the old photo studio when they decided to do that photo shoot. But he is perky (if a bit maniacal) and this card was beloved enough to make it down the generations to us today. Not surprising, perhaps, it is British and although I just received it in mail fairly recently I don’t remember it coming from there. I believe it was an American dealer.
The card was never mailed, no postage, but it is fully addressed on the back to Master Willie Rowell, Glendon, Castle Road, Torquay. Also written, To wish dear Willie a very happy day of many happy returns with love from Raymond xxxxxx x one from Phyliss. It is a sweet birthday greeting written in a clear, adult hand. Sadly birthday cards are becoming a bit rare in their own right (let alone thank you notes which, if you aren’t professionally inclined to them as I am, belong almost exclusively to the octogenarian set) as our birthday greetings now most frequently zoom across cyber space. This seems like a kindness to the less organized, who don’t have to time the purchase and mailing of a card. (They have no excuse for missing the date now however.) No less sincere, but far less tangible, the detritus of today’s felicitations will not be available for future perusal and subsequent purchase.
At the bottom is a birthday greeting written in verse,
Happiness be thine
Little lad with eyes so true
This greeting comes to-day
To wish the very best for you
On this they natal day
And, at last, I offer this as a sly advance (cyber) birthday wish to my own beloved guy – xxo and many happy returns of the day!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: These uniformed fellows (police? firemen?) take a great photo and we are so glad that they snatched up the scrap of a pup and kitten for this photo immortalization. I have several posts that address the sub-genre of cat mascots including Butch most recently, but also Mascots and Mascot – U.S.S. Custodian. I assume that the cats in particular had a role beyond mascot – that of reducing the rodent population – but you can see from photos like this one that mascot pride and real affection play a role too. These are pets truly, first and foremost.
This card was never sent and is on what I think of as a slightly earlier paper stock, giving the photo a somewhat iridescent (solarized?) quality. It has no writing on it and, oddly, was printed wrong side up on the postcard backing.
I am sure among you there is someone who will know at a glance how these fellows are employed. Their jumpsuit style uniforms pushed me toward firemen, but I am open to opinion and information. The guy in the center is clearly a real card, cap askew and a trouble making grin on his face. However, it is the men up front holding kit and dog who we really look at. The pup has a, “let me at ’em” thing going on with the cat who, in the great tradition of cats, can barely waste a glance at him look of slight irritation. My guess is that the two of them probably spent a lot of time mixing it up and that poor eager Mr. Puppy spent some time with cat scratches on that nose of his.
A wily cat knows, however, that a frontal attack is rarely necessary when you can jump high and fit behind things that a dog cannot. Years ago I remember my sister’s cat Milkbone teasing the pitbull-mastiff mix Ron, letting him chase her around the house just so she could jump out of reach or behind something at the very last moment. (Despite her name, Milkbone was not destined to be anyone’s chew toy.) Growing up our cats enjoyed a more symbiotic relationship with the German Shepard, Duchess – one of occasional annoyance at food stealing and whatnot, but generally genial. Sadly, not all dogs are benign with cats, but we will assume that these two grew up together and forged a working relationship.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Occasionally I am in the process of purchasing (or just admiring) a photo on eBay and another by the seller catches my eye. In this way I, who generally am a purchaser of photos that include cats, am attracted to some thing utterly off-topic. (It is sort of the digital equivalent of thumbing through a pile in a flea market I guess.) This postcard (and another which also features a dog) turned up the other day and the next thing I knew, it was mine. It is unused and undated.
As often as people preoccupy themselves with selfies and camera photos today, I am not convinced that they show the same commitment to the comical posed photo that folks did back in the photo postcard day. I could be wrong (mine is not an exhaustive study after all), but I am willing to go out on a limb and say that men were more likely to be the photo pranksters, like these fellows.
Okay, I’m not even exactly sure how they did this pose unless they really were willing and able to perch on each other’s backs – like early camping vaudevillians. I can imagine getting about four up from the bottom without doing that, but not sure about those top two – and the top fellow so debonair with the cig hanging, jauntily, out of his mouth. Each has his “camp” hat on. And of course somehow the photographer also got the wonderful little dog to pose just right at the bottom. Well done gents! This photo is so splendid it makes me wonder about the other photos likely taken on this camping trip, although with the cost of film at the time perhaps this was their only foray on this venture. Meanwhile, it is worth noting – they are not truly in the wilderness. If you look carefully there is a pretty little town (church steeple and all) in the valley right below them.
So, if I am wrong let me know. I would love to see your jolly contemporary entries into photo comedy – no Photoshop however please. Let’s keep ourselves on something close to an even playing field and see if we can compete with the real photo postcard of the day.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I have a general rule that if I see any early photos of people riding or posing with giant stuffed animals I just have to own them – pretty much regardless of condition and price. I admit to paying up for this one, despite the underexposure and probably some additional fading over time – its origins probably in a wash pail of dirty and over-used developer, decades ago. Kim has already performed the miracle of Photoshop on it and it is about 40% better here than in person.
I have the impression that the person selling it believe Mickey’s presence to be the come hither factor (and I have nothing against that nice, early Mickey next to our girl except that we can barely see him), but for me it was this splendid big Steiff-like bear she has climbed aboard that does it for me! Oh to live in a time when one had a choice of posing for a souvenir tintype photo with oversized Felix or Mickey – or riding an enormous black cat or bear! Gee whiz, those were indeed the days. (And still again I ask, why do none of these giant toys turn up so I can purchase them? Unfair fate!)
This photo is another tiny guy – only about 2″x3″ and tucked into this nice cardboard frame. It would be better shown if I was willing to take it out, but I love the little holder and removing the photo would destroy the now fragile holder. You cannot see it here so well, but it has a cardboard stand on the back so the photo can stand up on those cardboard feet you see. On the back, written in clear script in pen, it says, Esther from Erica Lee. There’s something a bit odd about that – why is Erica sending photos of Esther? Perhaps she is her mom?
Despite the lack of giant toys available to pose on or with, I tend to embrace every opportunity to have a souvenir photo made. I don’t especially like photos of myself, but for some reason photo booths and other like opportunities are different and fire up my imagination and desire. When at all possible, I drag my ever-patient and handsome mate into the picture. In addition to the link for this early blog kick-off post, Pam’s Pictorama Blog Debuts, I supply some long ago photostrip of photos below.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is a tiny tintype which sat on my desk at the Met for many years. It almost was lost in the shuffle when I left – it had been turned over and stuck under something, but luckily one of my colleagues, Morgan, found it and sent it to me. I was very pleased to have it back and realized that, in a casual sort of way, I had been looking at it more or less every day for many years now. I believe it was given to me by a friend at the Central Park Conservancy, when I was first developing an interest in early process photography.
It is a nice scene, this long ago gathering under these lovely trees. The group is posed but there is something relaxed about them. Because of the nature of these singular images on metal, there is a lot of information even on this tiny one, only about 2″x 3″, a sliver of a picture – the snapshot equivalent of its day. Tiny though it is, this photo transports me to a different time and place.
One of the strange things about leaving a job after a long time is the things that you have accumulated in a more or less unconscious way are now piled in boxes, suddenly out of context, while you try to decide what is necessary and what fits into your new space, and to some degree new life. My office now is smaller than my former office and the folks at the new place tend to do all their meetings in conference rooms – each named for a jazz legend – rather than in each other’s office. (I now spend my days muttering about trying to figure out if something has moved to Lady Day, or if we can fit that many people in Jelly Roll or not – or where is Monk? And really, this is probably nicer than, I’ll meet you in 5A or 4B seems to be booked, but like so many things it is a learning curve.)
Some items moved without question and immediately to my new digs, such as the one-of-a-kind little wooden box Kim gave me which I featured in my post Kim’s Elephant Box. There is a lamp with a base made of old, black dice and the tiny, but nicely made plastic animals my friend Eileen has given me. Early sheet music of Pussy Foot Rag and Me-ow finding their way to the walls and slowly replacing a bad painting of a dog and some photos from the prior resident. However, at least for now, my beloved but fragile Happy Life Toy, in all of it’s gentle celluloid glory, has not yet found a perch in the new office. Since I find this toy has a calming effect on me, I might want to find a spot for it there soon.