There is a wonderful Flickr Group I am a member of called "The Museum Of Found Photographs" and every so often I submit a new exhibit. My latest is this slightly lop-sided quartet from the 1930s. Where they were or what they were doing I am not sure: but it has to be said that they don't seem very happy about it. "Smile for the camera ... for heaven's sake, smile"
Thursday, December 20, 2018
This is an old postcard from my collection and it features a view of Thornhills Lane in Brighouse. Once the sun returns to the sky I will take a walk up the Lane and record what has changed in the last 110 years, but as far as I remember from the last time I was up that way, the answer will be not a lot.
The card was sent by Phebe to Tom Holland in Gorton, Manchester. As far as I can make out the message is as follows:-
I hope you arrived home alright. I found all safe, also my rings. Came on to Brighouse yesterday with mother and I stayed overnight, but am going back to Halifax tonight. Kind regards to Mr Pickles,
Please bring Scottish Song Book by request of Mr E Atkins.
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Our random date generating time machine has taken us back to Friday 31st August 1945 and given us a copy of the Yorkshire Post to read.
Just over three months ago the war in Europe came to an end, just under three weeks ago the war in the Far East also came to an end, so it is little wonder that the newspapers are still focusing on the impact of that horrendous world war and the prospects for the future. The Yorkshire Post leads with the first eye-witness reports of the situation in Tokyo - "a city of ashes". "Most of the people are living in huts with thatched roofs on the outskirts Tokyo or crude dug-outs and air raid shelters in the ruined areas", writes Robert Reuben, the Reuter correspondent. "The food situation is critical in some areas. A lorry filled with Japanese soldiers passed us, but only one drew his sword. None raised their guns". Another article tells us that in Germany, charcoal is now the main fuel of motor cars.
"Northerner II" in his "This World Of Ours" column, bemoans the shortage of cigarettes which has befallen on post-war England. The likely culprits, he informs us, are British troops in the Rhineland who are using cigarettes as a currency to buy cameras and watches from German civilians. Cameras are obviously in great demand because a camera shop in Leeds has just experienced its second smash and grab raid of the summer.
The rest of the newspaper is full of that meaningful minutia that is the stuff of social history. A farmer wins a new tractor in a raffle, and they are hay making down on the farm. You can buy a new fur coat (ocelot-coney, no less) for just 19 guineas - but you will still need 18 clothing coupons because rationing is still in place and will be for many years to come. If you can't afford the coat you can always treat yourself to a night out at the cinema to see Johnny Weissmuller in "Tarzan and the Amazons", or perhaps Penny Singleton in "Leave It To Blondie". On the way home you can buy fish and chips - complemented by a liberal sprinkling of Champion's Malt Vinegar.
Monday, December 17, 2018
A thing of beauty can be found in the most unlikely places. This tiny old print was found sticking to the side of an envelope that must have contained a collection of photographs of more supposed interest. It was lost and forgotten for all the reasons such tiny works of photographic art are lost and forgotten: it didn't show Auntie Beth or Uncle Sam, it was a bit too black and white, and it wasn't pretty. It is, however, a gem of both social and photographic imagery: packed full of movement and interesting shapes. At a guess it must date from the mid to late 1920s, and I suspect it was taken somewhere in London.
Throughout the photograph, people have been captured in mid motion; frozen in time as only photography can do. The lack of detail merely accentuates this, making it the movement that is important rather than personal details. I have no idea of was responsible for the original photograph, who printed it, who discarded it, who lost it. They created, however, a little masterpiece which I am happy to share with the rest of the world.
Wednesday, December 12, 2018
My post today features two images from my family photograph collection. Between them they feature three girls – and three methods of identification. The first photograph is the later of the two, and probably dates from around 1928. It shows two teenage girls with a Japanese umbrella and the hint of a painted Japanese scene in the background: the kind of props that were popular in photographic studios in the 1920s. The girl on the right – as you look at the photograph – is my mother, Gladys Beanland. The girl on the left is called Florrie – and I know that because of a pencilled description on the reverse of the print.
If the first photograph depends on familial recognition and pencilled annotation, in order to accurately identify the second photograph, I had to turn to new technology. I thought I recognised the young girl in the studio portrait, that must have been taken in the first half of the 1920s, but I couldn’t be sure. I then submitted the image to the facial recognition programme on Photoshop Lightroom, and it agrees with me – the sitter is Gladys’s sister – my Auntie, Amy Beanland. Two lovely old photographs, three lovely young ladies, and – thanks to modern facial recognition and old-fashioned pencilled notes – three identifications.
Thursday, December 06, 2018
Vocabulary has always a tendency to lag behind technological progress - which is why we have a word for a merchant who deals in candles made out of sheep's intestines ("tallower" in case you are interested), but no word to adequately describe those people who use social media to tell you what they had for breakfast. One activity there really should be a word for is that of adding something unique to the World Wide Web. Obviously we are well past the stage where that is going to be something of great interest to humanity - such as an image of an undiscovered Van Gogh or a cute cat jumping up at a sewing basket - but even the most esoteric of things will be go interest to someone, either now or 500 years in the future. The internet provides us all with an opportunity of adding something to that monumental time capsule called documentary history.
So whatever the word for the activity might be - I am doing it now with this scan of a small (9cm x 6cm) card which must date from the Second World War. It is calling for women to volunteer for the 69th Anti-Aircraft Command Troop of the Royal Artillery, which had a camp on Dewsbury Road, Leeds. Women between the ages of 18 and 40 (seventeen and a half with parent's consent) were urgently needed to supply target information for anti-aircraft guns. Not only was there full rates of pay in camp, there was also a bounty of £9 per year!
The card comes from the collection of my late Uncle Frank and Aunty Miriam, although there is no record of Aunty Miriam ever signing up. Perhaps the bounty wasn't attractive enough. I have carefully checked Google and as far as I can discover there are no other images of such cards - so this is my own personal contribution to documentary history, whatever that might be called.
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
This is a scan of a negative I took over fifty years ago, in the mid 1960s. I can date it because of the rest of the shots on the strip of negatives - but even if they had not been there, I would have some idea of the date by the shape of the straw bales. These are good, old-fashioned, farmers' back-breaking, rectangular bales which would emerge from the baler machines of the 1960s. Just about the time I was taking this photograph a young graduate student at Iowa State University was working on his masters thesis which incorporated a design for a baling machine that could produce circular bales which could be easily pushed around. By the end of the decade, the shape of the countryside was changing and my photograph had become history.
Monday, December 03, 2018
Stories abound about so-called primitive tribes who would shun photographers in the belief that cameras can capture the spirit of the photographers' subjects. As with many such stories, it is of dubious veracity: but if such tribes ever did exist I have a degree of sympathy with their beliefs. Nothing comes close to capturing the very essence of a person like a photograph. That was true of the 1930s - when this photograph of my father, Albert, was taken - and it is still true in this modern age of the digital selfie (although the spirit exposed by some filter-bleached offerings might not be what the subject intended).
When I look at this photograph of my father on a seaside beach (the chances are it will have been Cleethorpes), I see him ... and then I see my brother, and then myself, and then my son, and even - if I squint a little - my grandson. What that box camera of eighty years ago did was to capture, not the soul or the spirit, but a decent chunk of DNA.