Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I have a clutch of photo strips which are something of a mystery to me. They appear to hail from the Midwest via @MissMollyAntiques, a temptress seller of photos and other goodies from that part of the country whose acquaintance I have recently made on Instagram. Recently my insomnia started to align with her late night sales and what follows is some blog posts upcoming (not to mention a serious impact on my bank account). At least one of those future posts will be sporting another unusual variation on early photo process.
Devoted Pictorama readers might know that I have a bit of a mania for photo booth photos and that I cannot pass a booth – a functioning one hopefully, many is the time broken ones have eaten my money – without dragging Kim in and having our pictures taken. (There is a photo booth in the basement of a restaurant on the upper west side which I frequent, located next to the restrooms, and it annoys me I have never tried it, however I am always there on business and never have time. I hope they have not gone out of business before I have another chance.)
My very first post on this blog was devoted to photo strips of us by way of introduction. (That post can be found by clicking here.) It is interesting that I have no corresponding desire to take selfies, in fact I am not sure I ever really have. It does not interest me.
I have collected the occasional photo booth photo of other folks, including a lovely Christmas gift from my brother in-law Seth of some kids who appear to have thought ahead to bring their Mickey doll along. (You see that photo and can read the post here.) However, although I have a volume or two devoted the subject, it isn’t an area I collect deeply in. As Pictorama devotees know, my gig is mostly souvenir photo postcards of a seashore or carnival variety, posing with an out-sized Felix, cheerful or tatty painted background behind. It is fair to say though that I am interested in these fellow travelers, even if I don’t own a number of them.
I had never, however, seen photo strips as early as these appear to be. Based on the attire I would say these are from the 1900’s; printed on a very light paper, not ferrotypes or tintypes. (The extraordinary hats sported by some of the women are a study unto themselves! The men all quite natty – people dressed up for these; it was still an event.) A quick search on the internet confirms that photo booths, although invented in Germany in 1889, they did not hit the United States until 1925 when a Russian immigrant named Anatol Josepho (nee Josehowitz) set up shop on Broadway in New York City.
There appears to be only a few references to or examples of this style photo when I search online. While I do not know, my guess is that it is unlikely they were produced by a photo booth predating the 1925 one, but instead were somehow executed by a photographer followed by a fast process for developing. (If there is anyone reading this out there who knows about this particular process please let me know. I am very interested in early process photography and would love the answer to this riddle.) The examples I have found online were all the horizontal fashion, none were vertical like my gents here.
Much like tintypes or photo booth photos, the quality is all over. One sort of assumes that it just depended on when the photographer had last changed the batch of developer he was using. It is sort of interesting that several are mostly of one person with a final photo adding one or two more people.
I believe these are an answer to a question which has long scratched at my brain which was about how people made photos that were suitable for the lockets that were popular about this time, lovely fat silver and gold ones on long chains. It never seemed likely that people were taking larger photos and cutting the faces out. Just seemed too hard – although recently I did come across the image of an early photo with a heart shaped excised which I assume was a result of such a project. I also realize that I have a post devoted to a page of collaged photos from an album I purchased and wonder if those were trimmed from photos like this. (It can be read here.)
Although I have eyed these lockets for years, I never purchased one. Years ago, I once went into an antique and vintage jewelry store with the actual intent of purchasing one – I had seen them on an earlier trip – and instead came out with my cat Zippy. The owner had rescued a batch of kittens and he was a final one, sporting a bad eye which never entirely healed, needing a home. Sitting on the counter just below the aforementioned lockets, he literally jumped into my arms. Locket was never purchased, but Zips, one in a line of tuxedo cats, lived a long feline life.