Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This cyanotype postcard caught my eye the other day. I have a special soft spot for cats sporting a mustache and it has given me an excuse for a very all #Caturday sort of Pictorama post today. My cat Otto was my only mustachioed cat and had a perfect little Chaplin (Hitler?) mustache on her tuxedo face. Our Cookie, below, has a sloppy half one which is more like a painted smile on one side. She is not a symmetrical cat.
The Japanese, a cat loving culture as a whole, seem to have a special yen for white cats with black mustaches, which do look remarkably like early Japanese prints. Instagram is full of them. Some are rescues with one ear clipped while others look quite posh. For some reason they look like the cat equivalent of used car salesmen to me. I cannot seem to find any particular reason why the Japanese are especially fond of the look, but I do love finding them in my cat filled feed. (My Instagram feed is an almost perfect cat, antique and jewelry filled delight. I fight attempts of the algorithm to lead me astray.)
In the postcard kitty is perched in a wheel barrel which appears to be homemade from an old half barrel. Although this is a very fluffy feline and I would say there are a few years on this kit too, living an active farm life. For me there is just something wonderful about how this card comes together, sideways writing and all however.
Somewhat annoyingly Aunt Lisa completely ignores the presence of Mr. or Ms. Kitty on this card as she writes a rather mundane note, albeit in a lovely if occasionally illegible hand. To the best of my reading ability it appears to say, Dear Willie, Tell your brother that I had a personal…with a Lundberg today and he assured me that all would be satisfactory concerning the rubber heel. Hoping that…and is interesting and that papa’s cold is better. Love from Aunt Lisa. It was mailed on September 1, 1906 at 2:00 PM from Seattle, Washington to Master Willie Bailey, Port Townsend, Washington, Buf 244. The one cent stamp has gone missing. Alas, we are never to know kit’s name or any info.
Although cyanotypes appeal to me, they do not make up a significant portion of my collection. I have written once or twice about them (posts can be found here and here) and I have never had a chance to experiment with making them, although I gather that as early process photography goes they are pretty simple. (Iron compounds appear to be the active metal.) They were an inexpensive method of photography, invented in 1842 according to the internet, so the method was old hat by the time this one was produced in 1906.
I will close with a non-cat note that there is a gem of a little book I stumbled on years ago called Ipswich Days which is the reproduction of 41 cyanotypes made by Arthur Wesley Dow in 1899 and which I mentioned in one of the earlier posts. It is available inexpensively on Amazon (here at time of posting) and is an amazing reproduction of a slice of life and stroll through a small waterfront town at the time. Enjoy!
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.