All in the Family, cont.

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Continuing the family theme from yesterday, I have one of those photos that just got better and better for me the longer I looked at it. This is a very celebratory group and unfortunately they, like yesterday’s family, failed to note anything about the nature of or participants in this photo. It is my thought that this celebratory group is a wedding party, bride’s family to her side – although the little guy peering through could also be of that clan, since I am already making assumptions about family features.

They are posing with a single symbolic celebratory drink for toasting, each sporting a lavish corsage or elaborate boutonniere. Of course, the reason I love this photo is that they have rounded up the family dogs and this nice black cat to be in the picture. The beagle seats himself willingly on the one side while the other fellow is being held in check, collar or short leash stretched ready to tear madly off in some sort of get away. My friend the black cat is somewhere between patient and not as he considers his next move. He appears to be a rare all black kitty, although perhaps there is a patch of white on that tummy some place hidden from the camera, nonetheless I am glad these don’t appear to be superstitious folks and he is beloved enough for a place next to the bride.

We document special occasions with photos of family and pets often make up part of that family. How often do you see a photo of someone, an author photo or just a newspaper photo of someone posed at home, where they have scooped up the family cat or grabbed the pup? While it is said that you choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family, in a sense we do. We marry and join families and we declare that the people closest to us in a variety of ways are family, defining it for ourselves in many ways. Clearly our pets make up part of that family for many of us, and I love to see that it goes back this far, to the early days of photography.

 

 

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Backyard

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I saw and bought this to ultimately give to a Jack Russell owning new colleague at work. I liked this little guy sporting this sort of homemade looking doggie garb. It is keeping him warm on this snowy day and he also wears a collar. Dogs rarely get center stage here at Pictorama. However, I grew up with dogs, some of you have read those stories, to the same degree as cats so it isn’t like I don’t like them. I do. I am sure if I didn’t live in a tiny studio apartment I would probably live with at least one. And although I have generally lived with medium and large dogs, I have over time developed a soft spot for small ones too. Jack Russell Terriers in particular seem like the right kind of lively canine companions – the kind of dog that likes having a job and takes it seriously. Bred for fox hunting I understand they are high energy and smart. According to the back of the photo, this fellow is Mickey II (I have a friend who has named a seemingly endless line of Poodles Pierre) at 10 weeks, and the photo was printed on December 6, 1937.

He appears to be perched on some sort of wooden storage container – for garbage cans perhaps? For some reason as I look at this photo today I get a yen for having a backyard. There doesn’t seem to be anything especially glorious about this one, but I am not sure it matters. I think any patch of outside you call your own is a special thing and something we unconsciously yearn for sometimes in the city. When you are a kid you learn every inch of it. The designated safe space to be sent out to inhabit when your parents were tired of you inside, or for some other reason felt like you should be “outside playing” it often fell to you to figure out how to activate that space. We didn’t have yards with swings or other features – in retrospect other than the river running behind it, the yards were somewhat barren growing up. I can still remember what they looked like though – the trees that we played under (none of them were climbable) and the docks with their dead fish smells – seagulls having smashed oyster shells on them heightening the familiar stink of seaweed and crab shells in a trap. Still, you always knew that life was teeming in the water just below the surface and just lying on the dock and watching the sea world below was a failsafe activity. We lived on the river in both houses I grew up in, but the one I knew best had a floating dock and the water was calmer. By that time we knew how to swim and my parents worried less when we spent time by the water.

It is only just now starting to grow chillier here in the Northeast, a fall which is being discussed for being more like extended summer this year. However, the yellow light tugs me back to my childhood as it does every year. First the light of September which reminds me of back-to-school from my earliest years – at least those are the ones that come to mind. The school smells of those hallways new to my nose which for some reason still plays over in my mind. But the light of October and early November make me think of playing in our backyard, even more than the long days of summer when I surely spent more time outside. This time of the year reminds me of being about twelve years old and just old enough to feel like I should be outside doing things. Still young enough that making forts and hideaways among the trees appealed and that’s what I remember.

This guy in someone’s backyard in 1937 makes me nostalgic for a backyard this morning. A place where you were out in the world and you could imagine all sorts of adventures, but you knew you were nonetheless home safe.

 

Floss

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!

More Mascots

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.

 

The Peek-a-Boo Tent

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.

Towser, Me and Tom

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: My collection of men and cat photos seems to be burgeoning starting with this splendid image. (For a taste of earlier contributions to this sub-genre check out prior posts Army Cats and A Man and His Cat.) Although this has the appearance of a photo postcard, and is printed on a similar paper stock, it is smaller and does not have a postcard back – there are bits of black paper stuck to it where it was in an album. Nothing is written on the back, just that neat handwriting at the top, Sincere Regards from Towzer and Me To say nothing of Tom. I love the name Towzer and he is clearly a very good doggie here, perched on the man’s lap, all proud of himself – the sun over-exposed him a bit and Kim has done his best tweak in Photoshop to bring him out some. Meanwhile, Tom requires what I call the hand scrunchy, we’ve all done a version of it to keep kitty in the picture. The bright sun of that day has him bleached out too, but a nice looking striped fellow.

The gentleman (the Me in question) is an attractive and well dressed fellow. If you look carefully he has a nice tie pin as well as one on his lapel, good shoes. His hat is great and probably the first thing I noticed about the photo. Oddly the suit seems a bit large on him if you study it all a bit. The suit also seems a bit heavy for what is clearly a tropical climate, with that giant palm-like plant behind him. It is the sort of photo that leads me to speculation. Vacation or visit? Relocation? Rest cure?

If it is a visit, I must say I can never imagine traveling with my pets. Dogs seem a bit more sturdy about the whole thing – after all, especially here in NYC they are out on a leash several times a day so putting them in a carrier for a plane or hopping in a car seems possible although not without issue. Cats however, don’t seem built for it. For us transversing the two blocks on foot to the vet with screaming kit in carrier is a somewhat hair raising experience. The idea of putting the same cat in carrier and hopping in a car or (I can hardly even imagine) a train or plane, does not in anyway seem like a good start to a vacation. Perhaps it is just my kitties – they one and all have objected strenuously to the carrier and yowl like the end of the world is coming. However, I have friends who do it all the time, so perhaps felines will adapt if it becomes ritual? In all fairness, my kitties never get to go some place nice – really the vet is the extent of their travel. In fact, I am quite convinced that every time I leave the house in the morning that’s where they assume I go – and they feel very sorry for me indeed.

 

A Page of Life

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is more a doggie page than anything else, although I see a nice gray kitty at the middle bottom as well as one in the arms of the be-hatted woman, middle right. However, it is the feisty little Jack Russell terrier and the more thoughtful looking Pit Bull that grab you on this page. Like several other recent posts (Doggone and The Crimson) this came from the depths of that interesting drawer at the store I discovered on my birthday, Obscura Antiques and Oddities, and the resulting haul.

Several pages of collaged photos from the same source were in the drawer. I assume these were pasted onto the page at the time they were taken, but of course there is no way of knowing for certain. I regret now not buying them all and keeping the family together, but they were not inexpensive. I may need to go back and see if they are still there.

I have examined some early photo collage in Pictorama as in early posts Flapper Page – Photo Album cont. and Photo Collage – Blame It on the Blog! which deal with actual photos cut and pasted together like these, as opposed to the more numerous posts about collaged images designed into the photo process, like Cat Photo Collage. I think the person behind putting this together liked the border created by the paper used, which seems, according to the back of the page, to be illustrations and information on blast furnaces. You can see the tiny tip of the chimney of one, exhaust puffing out, in the top right corner, where the moirè pattern peering out from under the photos.

This page lacks the artistry and elaborate precision of the collage pages mentioned above, but it makes up for it by being a window into the sprightly life of what appears to be a fairly well-heeled family and their charming pets in the 1890’s. And despite the fact that each photo tends to suffer a bit from poor execution, somehow the effect of the overall page is evocative and interesting. The photos of the homes, which seem to be very different locations, show big, roomy houses – and I do especially like the photo of the three women from behind, their long, matching black skirts. It takes us off to a long ago, meandering summer, with family and beloved pets, and not a bad trip at all.

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