Pretty as a Picture Pair

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This pair of Felix-y photos just rolled into Deitch Studio yesterday in time for a post today. (I loosened the strangle hold of the bunker days money diet for a few photo purchases this week. Enough to entertain, but not enough to put us in the Poor House – we hope.)

These pictures are the exact proportions of photo postcards and I thought they would be. I can’t help but feel that in some way they were influenced by that look, but these are printed on regular photo paper and had been placed in a photo album. Nothing is written on them aside from the notation of age 21 on the one.

Scan 4

 

I cannot give many kudos to the person behind the camera on these. The composition, especially on age 21 is lousy and cock-eyed, the exposure in the other all burned out at the top. In some ways these are photos only I can love, further evidence is that I was the sole bidder. Originally I was only going to purchase the better of the two, but ultimately decided that these should enter the Pictorama collection together.

Scan 3.jpeg

Both young women sport large bows in their carefully curled and waved hair which makes them appear younger – although the doll clutched in the hands of the one I peg as the older of the two contributes. (The large hair bows make me date thee as taken in the late 1920’s or early ’30’s.) I think I would have put her at more like 16 or 18.

From what I can sort out they stand on a bridge of sorts which connects to a pavilion running perpendicular. Therefore, I am guessing that this is some sort of resort and perhaps my friend Felix and the baby doll were prizes of some kind. Poor Felix! No one seems to be paying much attention to him and of course that is a bit unfair, almost a hundred years later it is he who rescues these photos from obscurity.

 

 

 

June 1927

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Frankly I don’t remember exactly when this Felix family photo wandered into Deitch Studio, but when I was clearing a work space for myself it turned up. It is a small photo, sort of 3″x5″, and June 1927 is all that is written, in ink, on the back.

There is great contrast in this photo between the family sporting their best summer bib and tucker and the pleasantly rundown and overgrown yard they pose in. Why they have grabbed up these two good size composition Felix-es is of course also utterly mysterious. Each is held by one of the be-suited men. The third man has one of the women perched on his knee and the second woman is tucked between them, all posed on these inviting broad steps – just meant for sitting on.

The porch is inviting, or at least it is to me from the limited environs of Deitch studio at the moment. There is a deep wooden rocking chair almost out of sight and a less comfortable chair where a newspaper was hastily abandoned in a heap atop of it – the reader perhaps hopping up to pose for the photo. The early summer is unfurling into lush, green overgrowth around them. I think of upstate New York, but it could be many places. (I tried to check but I cannot find a purchase history to see where it even shipped from.)

The phenomena of having your photo taken with Felix is of course the original premise of this blog. However, even as someone who has collected many photos of people posing with Felix (usually the human-sized stuffed ones of seaside resorts and fairs – an example can be found here if you are new to Pictorama) these sorts of family snap shots with Felix remain a bit cryptic to me. Had they just won them at a fair perhaps?

I remain somewhat baffled by family photos where folks just snatch up a Felix statue or toy for the family photo – was the message that Felix was an important part of the family? Or just such a part of the times – they probably didn’t realize that it would eventually mark their family photo as somewhat iconic of the period.

Meanwhile, I cannot imagine the equivalent for my family growing up. (Despite having been the daughter of a photographer we didn’t do a lot of family photos and they were sort of starchy compared to these folks and their Felix dolls. There are no photos of me and Barbie – there is only one of me with a toy that I can think of and I wrote about it a long time ago here and I once again share me and the much loved Squeaky below.) I have a clutch of other photos from the late 1920’s and early ’30’s with Felix joining the family for a photo. Off the top of my head though, I want to say those photos are all from Britain and it is usually a stuffed Felix that gets the place of honor. (One of those posts can be found here.)

Pam w: Squeaky

Me with my beloved toy dog Squeaky, probably around 1968

 

Whatever the early 20th century motivation for posing with Felix toys, I am glad to see these treasure turn up today – sometimes finding new ones in my own apartment. Let’s see what else turns up here at Pictorama, shopping in our own closet as it were, for items of interest while enduring and also enjoying bunker days here.

On a Sunday Morning in Swainsthorpe

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Pictorama readers better hold onto their hats because, this holiday season mysteriously revealed the opportunity for some really extraordinary acquisitions! As a Christmas gift Kim’s help fund these and stretched my resources considerably. I am planning to post about them more or less in the order they came to me.

Both groups (the other to be posted tomorrow) were extraordinary opportunities to buy a series of photos of a single family and keep them together. The first photo in this group was brought to my attention by a Facebook friend, Bren Luke. While I was still trying to figure out the origin of the photo I stumbled across the lot of the six of them for sale on eBay. They were being sold separately, by a British seller, which meant high bids had to go on all in order to secure the whole lot. Prices ended up all over the place, but I paid up and purchased all. I am glad they will stay together. They are much more interesting that way.

I was shocked by the size of them when they arrived. They are tiny – only about 2”x3” and I am unsure what sort of film and camera would have been used. (Kim is guessing 120 film via a brownie type camera?) They are undated and cut from where they had resided in a photo album. Written in the same hand as the one titled here, there are dates of  ’24 and ’25 from other photos on the backs, so we might assume these fall loosely into the same period. Sadly this little boy with a horn is not named, only cousins Kathleen & John get identified. Our other tidbit of information is Swainsthorpe on a Sunday morning. The internet reveals Swainsthorpe to be a tiny hamlet in Norfolk, England, population 360 as of the 2011 census. A close look at clothing shows that the whole lot was likely taken on the same day.

My favorite photo is the one featured at the top – the little boy tooting on his horn next to Felix. This was the one sent via Facebook and worth the price of admission on its own. Felix seems to be listening to that horn, smiling up at the kid – perhaps propped up by the wheelbarrow handle.

As the little boy doesn’t actually interact with Felix I wonder a bit if it is indeed his affection for it that has placed it in the photos or some other more general family fondness for Felix? Maybe the person behind the camera. It is a nice big Felix (one that I would be pleased to have I might add) and he comes up to the little fellow’s waist. I especially like the way he is looking at the little boy playing the horn, the tiny wheelbarrow (child-sized) makes a good counterpoint, the beautiful old stone house in the background. A miniature lawn mower appears in a subsequent photo and, although those are somewhat lesser photos, the light is beautiful in them.

My second favorite photo is the one with the little girl with the long hair holding Felix while the boy (her brother perhaps?) toots on that horn. There is a dreamy quality to this one and I even like the overexposed edges for the effect it creates. Is that a tiny keyboard between the girl and boy? It is hard to know exactly, but the toy lawn mower is great too and these toys create a sense that this is most likely a somewhat privileged family. There are a few other photo variations with these toys, and then the two with cousins. Kathleen looks willing enough, but John appears mostly like he is being coerced into staying still long enough to pose with his cousins, let alone put his arm around him in the one photo. Felix is a bit cut off in one, but he makes a splendid appearance as the fifth member of the family, grinning toothily as always, in the other group photo.

 

Flat Felix Photo Finale, Installment 3

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Pictorama Collection, Pams-Pictorama.com

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As of the writing of this post, this third photo postcard of someone posing with a full size two dimensional Felix is the last in my collection. The Felix in this one bears a remarkable resemblance to the second one I wrote about – a variation on the tongue out, lascivious looking Felix. (If you missed the December 10 post it is here Blackpool, Felix Cutout Continued). As I predicted in that post, it makes for a very strange photo with a child. This little girl seems either dumbfounded or, more likely, terrified of him. She is holding the end of his tail in a rather unconvinced fashion – you can just imagine someone telling her to hold onto him, and his tail being the closest and safest seeming piece to hold onto. Scrawled on the back in fairly childish handwriting is the name, Margaret Bettell-Wilkinson.

If you look carefully, an entire amusement park has been painted into the background. There is something which resembles the base of the Eiffel Tower, although maybe they were just aiming for some sort of ride. There is a Ferris wheel and these sort of exhibition hall style buildings – I wonder if this was a specific park they were painting? Perhaps the one the photo studio was in or near. There is that fence with its very forced perspective as well and whatever went on below and above it which is too dark to tell.

The little girl, Margaret we will assume, could be considered a bit woebegone under any circumstances although to some degree as you look at early photos of children, if they are not really dressed up they tend to look tatty by our standards today. I think people in general had fewer clothes and kids wore them hard. This little girl does have a nice beret on and a sporty coat. I think it is her skinny, bare legs and droopy socks, combined with her effort to put some space between her and Felix, that makes her look at bit sad. Fair to say, at least in this context, Margaret is just not a Felix fan!

While one might think that perhaps photos where people are not at their happiest or best do not end up being saved, this just isn’t true. We all know this. Oddly, we hang onto all the photos of our loved ones in the end. A photo of someone, a pet, or something else you care about is hard to throw out even if they look funny or it is a bit blurry. It is even hard to delete these on your phone – where you know all those photos are piling up and you get constant warnings about storage being full. This is a fortunate part of human nature for the photo collector like myself, but the bane of the organized and the squeezed for space. Still, once a photo was made into an object like this wonderful postcard, you could never throw it out – even when your now 35 year old daughter comes home and says you should get rid of that thing. I am so very relieved no one listened.

Sticky Wicket?

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Pam Photo Post: These bizarre Felix photos are like catnip to me and I went to the wall to acquire this one recently, despite its damage. It appears to have been glued into an album (Felix’s family album perhaps?) and somewhat rudely peeled away. It has left it somewhat crinkly. It is a wonderful trick of the camera’s focus (and a tiny croquette set) that makes Felix appear to be human-sized. It was in fact advertised as a child in a Felix costume. I am pretty sure I recognize (and own) the model toy here. (He was featured in the post Toy Hospital earlier this year.)

It is a fascinating photo – it is not a postcard, although it is roughly that size, a bit bigger. It sets my imagination ablaze – what exactly did the photographer have in mind and how did it end up in an album? Who had the doll-sized croquet set if my assumptions are correct? It would have been taken by a canny photographer which, as I mention above, created the illusion. Or am I wrong and it is an extra-large size Felix? It  does remind me of the utterly extraordinary larger-than-life Felixes in my post Greetings from Felix in Kuala Lumpur where he appears to be directing traffic or something along those lines on the streets of the city.

As for croquet – it was well established in the United States by the late 1860’s, although its origin is in Britain. Some folks might be surprised to know that Central Park has long been a permanent home to croquet and lawn bowling societies. Although a very long-standing feature of the Park, I doubt an original one dubbed by Olmsted who preferred only seasonal entertainments and no permanent playgrounds or facilities in his original design. Still, there is something distinctly British about our American man Felix here. As we know, the Brits embraced Felix even more deeply than we in his homeland and indeed, this photograph was wrested from a dealer in Great Britain.

I will seek some advice from friends who restore photos at the Met to see if there is anything to be done for this little beauty – or at least the best way to frame and preserve it from further damage. If we make any significant improvement I promise to a follow up post.