The Long Way Home


Little Goblins
October 23, 2014, 5:53 PM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , , , ,
Little Vikings

Little Vikings/Valkyries

This photo series from my collection are more theater than Halloween, but these ladies represent the spirit of what I love best about this holiday: the costumes (that, and ghosts, witches. draculas, zombies, haunted houses, pumpkins…). I had read once that in the Victorian period through the early 1900s, people would dress in costume for parlor games, or put on small plays as forms of entertainment when hanging out with friends and family. I’m really digging Queen Neptune’s costume, a find I’d pretty much go bonkers over if spotted while thrifting.

Queen Neptune

Queen Neptune

Indian Princess

Indian Princess

Little Goblins

Little Goblins

Harlequin

Harlequin

Miss Gertie

Miss Gertie

Dancing Grils

Dancing Girls

Advertisements


The Gang’s All Here
October 9, 2014, 7:10 PM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , , ,
Romanian dance troupe, 1920s

Romanian dance troupe, 1920s

In July, I took a photobook workshop at the Carnegie Museum taught by photographers Melissa Catanese and Ed Panar of Spaces Corners. I wanted to learn more about editing my photography into book form, but when Melissa and Ed pointed out that the act of editing is also a creative act, I started looking through my vintage photos, thinking of ways to categorize them and tell stories. Each time Jeff and I go junk shopping now, I’m not only looking for vintage photos that catch my eye, but also photos that continue the stories in my existing collection. This series captures the different ways people come together to celebrate a moment: whether formal, as in the dancers above, or something fun (and a little strange), like the hay climbers below, posing with a group of friends and family indicates an occasion that demands remembrance. As the photos get passed down through generations, then lost among flea market bins, that momentous occasion becomes a mystery, leaving us to piece together the clues of who they are and what happened long ago.

I found this one under a pile of books in a thrift shop.

I found this one under a pile of books in a thrift shop.

In photos like these, I wonder about the photographer?

In photos like these, I wonder about the photographer?

Lingerie shop, Paris, 1890s.

Lingerie shop, Paris, 1890s.

This one almost looks staged.

Picnickers, early 1900s.

Smokers, early 1900s.

Smokers, early 1900s.

Dress-up, Paris, early 1900s.

Dress-up, Paris, early 1900s.

A card from Uncle Della.

A card from Uncle Della.



Hidden Mother
March 27, 2014, 9:30 PM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , ,
The Hidden Mother by Linda Fregni Nagler

The Hidden Mother by Linda Fregni Nagler

A few years ago, “hidden mother” photography buzzed about the ‘net – surreal, creepy photos of Victorian mothers with blankets thrown over their heads while their children sat around them, posing for pictures. I loved these eerie photos, but I wondered: Weren’t children terrified  sitting on the lap of a dark specter? The photographer in me fretted over composition: Why leave the obviously hidden person in the photo, when all it did was call attention to the person who wished to stay hidden?  Linda Fregni Nagler’s The Hidden Mother (MACK) addresses some of these questions in a series of over 1,000 “hidden mother” images. She explains that in the early days of photography, when long exposure times demanded people’s patience, the subject had to keep still. It was difficult to get children to do this for solo portraits, especially for a stranger, so mothers would drape themselves in heavy cloth to keep the focus on the child. In the early days of photography, composition was less important than keeping a visual record of a person, especially in a time with high infant mortality rates. These photos could have been the first image of a person’s life, or their last and only one. In studying the images, I discovered other types of “hidden mother” (and father) photos, ones that show a  disembodied arm reaching out to hold a baby, or the top of a woman’s head as she crouches behind a chair. I bought the first hidden mother photo (below) thinking it was an interesting photographer’s mistake, but now I’m more curious about the faceless woman skirting the edges of the frame.

"Hidden mother" photo found in Beaver Falls, PA.

“Hidden mother” photo found in Beaver Falls, PA.

"Hidden mother" photo from Bethlehem, PA - a gift from my friend Roya.

“Hidden mother” photo from Bethlehem, PA – a gift from my friend Roya.



Paper Moon Diary
January 26, 2014, 9:43 AM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , , , ,
Tintype, early 1900s.

Tintype, early 1900s.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a wee bit obsessed with paper moons, finding it difficult to resist that sinister smile on Mr. Moon’s skinny little face. Paper Moon is one of my favorite films (I love the book too, Addie Pray, on which it’s based), and over the years, I’ve added a few to my  vintage photo collection. (Okay, more than a few, so I’ll share more of these in a future post.) Paper moon photography, according to this article from the Hutchinson News, was  popular from the late 1800s to 1930s – think of them as a photo booth precursor, a way for people to capture a silly moment when going to a carnival or state fair. It wasn’t practice yet for people to smile at the camera, so finding one of those too is always a treat.

Group portrait, 1890s.

Group portrait, 1890s.

On back: "I can't remember whether I have your last letter or not so guess you will have to writ and tell me all the news. Everything is well, I had a sick spell and got over it. Love, Dolly."

On back: “I can’t remember whether I have your last letter or not so guess you will have to write and tell me all the news. Everything is well, I had a sick spell and got over it. Love, Dolly.”

My first paper moon image: stereoscope found in a Gettysburg flea market.

My first paper moon image: stereoscope found in a Gettysburg flea market.

A stoic couple, 1910s.

A carnival-worn couple, 1910s.

Edwardian mother and son. I love the moon's face on this one.

Edwardian mother and son. I love the moon’s face on this one.

Tintype, 1890s. Note the tiny details on this one: the woman's black mitts, the painted sky background, how the man holds on to the top of the moon.

Tintype, 1890s. Note the tiny details on this one: the woman’s black mitts, the painted sky background, how the man holds on to the top of the moon.



Wanamaker Diary, 1922
October 22, 2013, 6:13 AM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , , ,
From my ephemera collection:  Top row: miniature portrait album. Bottom row: vintage love letters. Gertrude's diary.

From my ephemera collection:
Top row: miniature portrait album. Bottom row: vintage love letters and Gertrude’s diary.

Last summer en route to a wedding, we stopped at an antique shop in the unfortunately named town of Shartlesville, where I found a Wanamaker diary being used as a pedestal for some porcelain trinket. I’m always on the hunt for old diaries because I’m a big snoop, so I was excited to discover this one in decent condition. It was previously owned by Gertrude Landis, and while she didn’t write much, it was still a treat to get a tiny peek into the life of a 16-year-old living in a big-small Pennsylvania town in 1922. From Monday, July 10: I went to the movies with Helen to see Thomas Meighen in “Bachelor Daddy.” It was a peachy play I thought.

Originating out of Philadelphia, Wanamaker’s was one of the first major department stores in the country. The diaries served as an almanac, entertainment guide, cookbook and advertising tool for customers. If you’re interested in the history of “grand” department stores  – places where shopping was an architectural as well as sensory experience – the Department Store Museum site is a great place to browse and learn more.

Gertrude, age 16

Gertrude, age 16

The diary contained almanac information.

The diary contained almanac information.

Recipes that I dare you to cook.

Recipes that I dare you to cook.

Excerpt on my birthday.

Excerpt on my birthday.

An important earmarked page: costumes!

An important earmarked page: costumes!

Advertisements, 1922

Advertisements, 1922

A prolific diary week.

A prolific diary week.



Time Travel: 1969-1972
August 18, 2013, 7:45 AM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , , , , , ,
August 1972

August 1972

We cleaned out our studio this past month: 12 large trash bags and three trips to Goodwill later – we find things. Like a copy of “Nights of Arabian Dentistry” that Jeff found in a thrift store. My tiny black wallet that looks like a toddler-sized handbag. A plastic garden gnome that I did have in the trash pile, but Jeff rescued by popping off the head and keeping it. The books – I could spend hours talking about parting with the books. Once I admitted that I’d never read To Kill a Mockingbird or Wuthering Heights ever again, they went straight into the donation pile. It feels good to get rid of things, and to make solid promises to yourself that you will not accumulate like you have been for years. It made me ask why I carted around dated grammar books year after year, or keep clothes that don’t fit anymore. It made me think too about all the things that my mother held that I now own, things that were very important to her when she was alive, like books, and pretty dresses, and photos – especially the photos. “Things” don’t matter, but sometimes those things keep us happy, inquisitive, curious, and creative.  I like looking through these old friend photos that my mother took during a time in her life when she was clearly happiest. They comfort me since she is no longer here to answer my questions, or tell me her stories.

1972

1972

Erica, 1971

Erica, 1971

my godmother, 1971

my godmother, 1971

Lynn, 1969

Lynn, 1969

Virginia Beach, 1972

Virginia Beach, 1972

amazing beehive, 1971

amazing beehive, 1971

 

 

 

 

 

 



Communion
April 19, 2013, 7:12 AM
Filed under: Vintage Photo Album | Tags: , ,
Riga and Julia Cellio

Riga and Julia Cellio

I consider myself culturally Catholic: baptized, never confirmed, but raised by a Catholic mother who left the church when she and my father divorced. In short: not Catholic at all. It always felt as if my mother tried to find the right spiritual fit for us, church-hopping until she found the Episcopalians: They’re like the Catholics, but without all the rigmarole. But in the toughest times of her life, she’d still seek guidance from a priest, or blessings from nuns. I found tiny holy water bottles tucked in dresser drawers when she died. Saint Theresa prayer cards fluttered from books, rosaries tangled in boxes. Recently Jeff and I were talking with a neighbor who asked why I had so many saint statues. It’s difficult to explain unless you grew up here in Pittsburgh, where the Virgin Mary is just part of the decor; you plant a garden, and then you gotta get a Mary for the living room window too. Its kitschy, it’s comforting. It’s a mysterious part of who I am, a world in which I was initiated at birth, but never fully integrated.

*

*

On the back: Astri Larsen, Confirmation 1930 - second day dress.

On the back: Astri Larsen, Confirmation 1930 – second day dress.

some girls get flowers - jeff gives me haunting old photos.

some girls get flowers – jeff gives me haunting old photos.




%d bloggers like this: