The Long and the Short of It

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The folks in these photos are costumed, but it might be a bit of a stretch to say these are Halloween photos, nonetheless I offer them for your pre-Halloween delectation today.

These photos are 9.5″x 3.5″, a size I have never encountered before. They are printed on a heavy stock – it might be fair to say photo postcard paper, but since they were long glued into an album (black paper sticks to the backs) it is a bit hard to tell exactly what their original weight was. Quite simply, these appear to be a miniature version of the foot long or panorama photo. They are slightly solarized, the silver somehow working its way to the surface as they aged.

On the technical side I am unsure exactly what camera would have sported this film, although the desire to make panoramas goes back to daguerreotypes – starting with the fitting together of consecutive shots, something that continues into the wet plate era.

Kodak was evidently making a panorama camera back in 1898, but my guess is that this photo may have been made with a 1911 Kodak model sold through the Sears & Roebuck catalogue. (I am not that smart about these this and some of these tidbits come from a larger article that can be found at A Brief History of Panoramic Photography.)

Generally panoramic photos were larger and made by either the lens moving or the camera and film rotating, but it seems that home panorama camera kits were mass produced, used roll film and the swing lens theory, but did not require a tripod. They made for smaller photos, topping out at around 12 inches. The negatives could be enlarged or contact printed. Given the information in these photos and the size I would guess their were contact printed. The edges of these photographs are a bit over-exposed and diffused which I am guessing either this particular camera or perhaps was prone to or that that process was likely to have.

Some of you might remember that there was a brief fad for disposable panoramic cameras, shortly before digital cameras (ultimately followed by the phone-photo) became the rage. They had a generally unsatisfying picture quality however, the dimensions somewhat shorter and wider than these. I was more a fan in theory than fact. (There was a more rarified 3-D disposable camera which I purchased, but sadly my photos were lost in the development return process so I cannot comment on the quality.) Somehow the panorama quality of my phone camera also disappoints and I use it rarely if at all.

Pams-Pictorama.com
Pams-Pictorama.com

If you look carefully at these pictures you can tell that the leafy surround of the stage is the same in both photos although the elaborate costumes and backdrops make me think these are entirely different productions. Both appear to be of a historical nature, but one has thrown in a number of angels, even two who “float” above the group, a technical triumph I am sure.

These pictures found their way to me from the mid-West (as many photos have recently) and there were a smattering of others, apparently from still other productions, that were sold at the same time. I was fascinated by the size which I had not encountered before.

Meanwhile, I would say that all evidence points to these kids really knowing how to put on a show. If I had to choose I think I would be partial to seeing the one with the angels doing their thing – although perhaps their special effect was only for this picture.

As an aside, a little known Pictorama fact is that I was an active participant in high school dramatics. Plays found me onstage and musicals behind the scenes as an assistant to the director. As such I can still recent lines from Harvey and know most of the lyrics to things like How Are Things in Glocca Morra? I’ve painted my share of scenery and assembled all sorts of costumes so I can appreciate the work that appears to have gone into these productions. (I am not much of a singer so Kim and the cats are blissfully spared my actual vocalizing of show tunes.)

For a number of years I have searched for the right panorama photo to find a home here at Deitch Studio. We have so little wall room that I have long held out for the right one, perhaps a wild west show, although of course something with cats would really be best. I am agnostic on size, although some are really quite huge. Most of what has come my way for purchase has been gala dinners for salesmen so I continue to wait for the right one to come along. I did post about a sort of faux panorama of cats, Kitty Sextette Singers, which can be found here which was assembled through a bit of photo negative magic.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Kim tells a good story about being in a panorama photo as a kid at an animator’s picnic with his folks – that or even one like it would be the real find. He also points out that with the roll film or rolling camera and film, a trickster who thought ahead could race from one end of the photo to the other and appear on both ends – a long forgotten joke of a bygone era.

Halloween in the Snow

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is another photo I have been holding onto in the run up to Halloween, purchased earlier this fall. Sadly there were several that ideally would have stayed together, but alas they went to high for me to achieve that goal. I liked this one best for its composition and our subject’s attitude.

Among the others were several similar shots and another in a group shot of five revelers standing in a line, four in similar homemade clown costumes and the fifth in a sort of Swiss maiden outfit. Another that I missed and would have been nice to have was nine folks, also all lined up at some sort of wooden balcony railing (eight of the nine were clown hat clones and presumably similar costumes from what we can see), appearing to be watching something, a parade most likely, together. These once again offered by Miss Molly, my mid-west maven of photos and things Halloween. Still, it is something that these all found loving homes even if it means they scattered across the country and perhaps even further.

The homemade costume was probably a relatively simple design – although I assure you beyond my capacity. As Pictorama readers might know, while I learned to sew buttons at some point, otherwise my sewing experience, via machine, is an endless tale of bobbins which were never the same for my acquaintance. I am old enough to have had Home Ec, perhaps among the last for whom it was required, before it was abolished or at least made optional. Meanwhile, I never met a sewing machine I didn’t manage to mangle with my ham handed ministrations. (I did better when it came to cooking.) As in many things my sister achieved substantially better than I did in this area and was pretty good, sewing some items she wore. She was also good at making bread – another area I have failed to achieve highly in, alas.

This photo is very jolly – showing off her nice costume out in the snow with her bit of attitude and eclat, a capsule of a time long gone by yet the homemade Halloween spirit which we can appreciate. She is justifiably proud of the handiwork on her costume. Whatever the accommodation she has made for her feet I cannot quite tell, although she has forgone snow boots. The other photos do not show evidence of snow and must have been before or after it had melted. I hope she had a nice day for when she was sporting it for a long time. (I hate to think of her suffering cold wet feet due to understandable costume related vanity.)

Although I cannot begin to remember most of my Halloween costumes from childhood and into adolescence (they sort of mostly mash together in my mind) I do know that while I had store bought costumes as a very young child (I did not come from a crafty DIY costume making type family at large), as soon as I was old enough to assemble my own I did with great joy. I can also say I still enjoy a good witch hat, worn at a saucy angle, not to mention a pair of cat ears which I have been known to wear to work on the appropriate occasion.

As an aside, Jazz at Lincoln Center is the first place I have worked where costumes were embraced by a swath of the staff for Halloween. (Just not a Met Museum thing.) I have a vivid memory of sitting in a meeting my first year with our Comptroller in gore strewn regalia much to my surprise. It is something I will miss this year, although I will keep my cat ears handy for a Zoom call or two on Friday.

I loved Halloween and we grew up in the right sort of neighborhood to be able to cover many houses on foot in the course of an early evening with neighborhood friends in a loosely age appropriate pack. It felt so exotic to walk the neighborhood on a chilly October night with your friends, knocking on the doors of houses you walked by constantly, but did not frequent. The candy was often kinds my somewhat limited experience had never allowed for – my introduction to things like wax lips and bottles of sugar liquid. A world of Mary Janes and fertile ground for tooth decay.

When younger, my sister and I were close enough in age that we went together of course, and then morphed into a neighborhood group that included both of us, before we drifted into our own groups over time. I don’t remember Loren being that enamored of Halloween now that I think of it – I believe she dispensed with it much earlier on than I did. I continued find excuses to dress up through college and even a bit beyond.

The last time I remember being in full Halloween regalia was probably the last Halloween I was still seeing my pre-Kim boyfriend. It was a huge gallery opening for a Robert Crumb exhibit. I was young enough still to be impressed that there was hot food served. I didn’t know Kim well at the time, but was surprised he wasn’t in attendance. (Looking back, my antenna already unconsciously tuned.) I was in a long black dress, black velvet opera coat and witch hat. I remember being very pleased at having a chance to wear the vintage velvet coat.

Fast forwarding, Halloween now falls immediately after our wedding anniversary (last week) and the anniversary of our first date – Veteran’s Day weekend. Therefore it has been somewhat supplanted by these bookends of dates of Deitch Studio/Pictorama importance. Today we have determined to make a mini-adventure via ferry (my new favored mode of transportation) and I am leaving off to go prepare for it. With any luck, more about that to come.

Dress up Hijinx

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is hard for me to resist an interesting Halloween card. This one hails, at least most recently, from Pennsylvania. It is unused and therefore not dated, the seller places it at 1907-1912 which seems like a fair estimate. These folks put some real effort into their dress up play. For me at least the prize for best costume is tied between the polar bear critter being ridden by someone who looks like Miss Muffet, and that extraordinary black bird creature to the right. He is terrifying in just the right costume way. They do look as if they could be putting on a play rather than dressing for Halloween, although the storyline is far from self-evident. The season looks right for late October, but we can’t know for sure. (One wonders if eight copies were made of this photo postcard, one for each person – and if so, could others possibly turn up? Such things have happened to me before. See my post Cat Chair Photo Sleuth.)

Perhaps my interest in such cards has to do with the idea that I somehow always dreamed I would have the opportunity to participate in this kind of dress up. As a child I had certain ideas about what I thought adulthood would hold for me that I now realize were a bit strange – largely the product of reading a certain kind of early novel and many old movies. For example, I assumed that I would move to a city where I would eat in nightclubs that had live dance bands and served dinner to people in evening clothes. (Oddly, with my new job and Dizzy’s jazz club, I am belatedly achieving that in a sense, although no dancing and evening gowns would be an exaggeration.) I thought I would drink water glass size mixed drinks that seem to be generically referred to as cocktails (certainly don’t do that), and that I would go to dress-up parties with everyone in wonderful costumes.

Now, I didn’t necessarily think all these things would happen at the same time. I did think the costume parties would be when I was younger and the dinner dancing in gowns would come later. As it happens, I can only remember one interesting costume affair I attended as an adult. It was an opening for a Robert Crumb exhibit at a huge gallery and about half of us were in costume. I was wearing a turn-of-the-century velvet coat, a long black dress and a witches hat. It was an interesting evening – lots of people, food and drink. My date and I went in different directions immediately and I flirted with all sorts of people – must have been the witch costume at work. I seem to remember being disappointed that I didn’t see Kim there – we were just friends at the time, but I always looked for him at gatherings such as this. I guess part of me knew before the we caught up with us. And that, on the other hand, is the sort of the splendid thing you can’t possibly imagine when you are a kid thinking about what it will be like to be grown up.

 

Dress Up

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: To my surprise this photo is tiny! I was shocked to find it is only about 2″x 3″ when it arrived in the mail. However, it is full of information and has blown up nicely. It was, of course, the cat costume that first drew me, although Little Red Riding Hood, or whoever she might be, is mighty fine as well! The photo came from Britain which means that, although this could be Guy Fawkes, it is not Halloween. Upon reflection the garden, which is lovely, and the houses beyond, are very suburban British in nature. Nothing was written on the back and in its own way it is an old but timeless image. I have it in my mind that the Brits do costumes and dress up well, but I am having trouble pin pointing what makes me think that.

I always loved costumes and dressing up, although what kid doesn’t? In my memory though, surprisingly I don’t remember dressing up as a cat. Not that I have many specific memories of what I did dress up as. Early on were store bought costumes – the late 1960’s and early ’70’s. This meant those awful hard plastic masks that were hard to breathe and see through – and yet, it was exciting to put them on. My parents weren’t the crafty types and making my own costumes had to wait until I was old enough to do it myself. I did continue to dress up for Halloween through high school and at least once that I remember in college. (I remember there being a number of times I dressed up as something out of a work of art – like a Toulouse-Lautrec can-can girl. Or, more abstractly, a Georgia O’Keeffe skull painting. What can I say? I was an art student.)

A number of years ago I did stumble across a furry hairband with shiny sequin cat ears around Halloween which I purchased. When I put it on and showed it to the cats, Otto and Zippy at the time, they had the funniest reaction – they backed away from me very slowly, never taking their eyes off me. Finally they just turned and walked away, as if they were shaking their heads, appalled. I thought later, it was as if I had told a racist joke or put on the cat equivalent of black face, and they were embarrassed for me!

Fooled Again!

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Okay, time to admit it, if you are going to be a collector and take some chances, once in a while you are going to get burned – those are the rules of the game. A card that is suppose to be old is a reproduction, a stuffed toy is in poorer condition than advertised – it happens. In the process of doing a large buy on a postcard site, early one morning (think pre-coffee) I added this one into the batch, believing perhaps that the figure in the middle was actually wearing a Felix costume. Actually, don’t know what I was thinking. Once it arrived, it took a little while for me to even find the darn Felix!

Still, now that it is here, it is a strange and unusual card if not necessarily one I would have purchased otherwise. Roughly tinted, this shows an unusual line-up of men. There’s something decidedly gruesome about this group – um, not really jolly somehow. Perhaps it is the sloppy coloration. I don’t know – and the spirit of Felix, pasted to the window behind them, hovering over them.