Saturday, July 09, 2016

Sepia Saturday 338 : A Walk Around My Uncle Frank


Our Sepia Saturday prompt this week features a man walking down the street. There was an interesting discussion on our group Facebook page as to whether the photo is a "walkie" - that is one of the Walking Snaps that was taken by one of the many photographers that plied their trade by taking random photographs of people walking down the street in the hope of selling prints at a later date. Initially, I decided it wasn't a "walkie" because it wasn't taken at a seaside where walking snaps were most popular; it din't have a details of the photographer or the date on the print; and the print was lop-sided. However on reflection I am not too sure, the chap in the photograph doesn't seem all that interested in having his photograph taken.

My own contribution to Sepia Saturday 338 is a similar photograph and once again I am unclear as to whether it was a "walkie" or simply that Uncle Frank (for it is he) is cultivating a careful image of a man-about-town who is as used to casual photographers snapping his likeness as some suburban Errol Flynn. Whether it is a "walkie", a "snappy", or some carefully executed "selfie": as with all such old photographs there is a wealth of what can be called collateral detail. Let's just examine a little of it.

A : Let is start with that pipe (and you may want to click and enlarge the original photograph to see it in more detail). Uncle Frank certainly smoked but I have no recollection of him smoking a pipe - nor have I any other photos of him doing so. But there is something slightly odd about the shape of the pipe and all I can imagine is that there is a cigar butt within the pipe (this is a practice I have often noticed in Belgium and the Netherlands, but never seen in this country)
B : The tell-tale strap of the gas mask holder gives us our first clue as to the date of the photograph. In some strange way gas masks have come to prove far more useful to daters of old photographs than they ever were to that poor generation who had to carry them around.
C : A man in uniform strides into the picture from the left. My feeling is that this is a civil uniform rather than a military one (perhaps a railway worker or park keeper) but this would suggest an early stage of the war before such workers were conscripted into the armed forces.
D : That looks like it might be a park and those certain look like iron park railings. If that is the case once again it would suggest an early stage of the war before all such precious objects were gathered up and melted down to make aircraft parts, shells and other such instruments of warfare.

Any old photograph contains layer after layer of detail. You can keep digging and discovering more and more. It is a walk into history - and a fascinating walk at that.

To see more such walks take a stroll over to the Sepia Saturday Blog and follow the links.

17 comments:

  1. This is indeed a fascinating walk into history. The details you applied for dating the photo are ones I am not accustomed to even thinking about. The gas-mask strap took my breath - I thought maybe he was sporting a man-purse.

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    1. I guess it is a gas mask, but now you mention it the thought of Uncle Frank with a man-bag is even more delightful.

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  2. The guy in uniform looks like a bus driver to me. What do you think?

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    1. As always Georgina, you are probably right.

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    2. There have been repeats of On the Buses recently (complete with signing) and that put it into my mind.

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  3. Great analysis. I would have assumed that it was the strap of a camera bag worn behind his back. You can certainly discern a lot from little photographic details.

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    1. Given the probable date my money is still on a gas mask

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  4. I wonder how the cut of the cloth counts. Those trousers do not look new, and contain far too much fabric to be cut in a more parsimonious time.

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  5. I enjoy searching out those little details too. I found several in mine, but decided to leave them out. Maybe I'll go back and add later.

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  6. The real value of a photograph is its details, isn't it? Gas Mask. Good spotting!

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  7. Some of these old photos had a lot of detail in the background. You made use of the background.

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  8. Perhaps Uncle Frank carried a gas mask as a courtesy to offer anyone offended by his tobacco smoke.

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  9. I would also venture a guess as to the vertical wood rack on the right, a bicycle rack perhaps?

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  10. A fascinating analysis of the detail in the photograph and a great lesson to all Sepia Saturday bloggers. I had not head of the term "walkies" before, but I have some examples of our family on holiday getting caught whilst walking along the prom in Bournemouth in the 1950's.

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  11. Geez, I'd have never imagined a strap for a gas mask. I thought he probably had a camera case. He looks to be walking with an air of complete confidence. And that pipe shape is odd. Why do I suddenly smell pipe smoke? I'd say it's my imagination working overtime, but in California any whiff of smoke has to be taken serious.

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  12. My first thought was a binoculars strap; he was off to the races! If it’s the era when everyone had to carry gas masks, why is the lady not wearing one? I recently found the one and only photo of my grandfather holding a pipe; he was a big cigarette smoker.

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  13. Isn't it amazing what you can discover in a photograph?! Clues and more clues...along with questions. I have quite a few photos taken randomly in the city streets but perhaps the approach was different in OZ.

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