Got bitten by the Vernacular Photography bug

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Mainecoonmaniac, Apr 14, 2013.

  1. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I was in Seattle and visited Watson Kennedy purveyors of home decor. They sell old photos torn from old albums displayed in a dresser drawer for $3 each. All the jumble of photos took me back to a time when I wasn't born yet. I was drawn in by the people, places, clothes from another era. The poses of the people in the shots seemed so different than pictures today. The photos had a beautiful unpolished quality to them. Some even had writing in the back written with beautiful penmanship. I bought a few. I'm trying to psycho-analyze myself why would I buy photos of people I don't know from a time I never lived? I find them more intresting than overly slick photos of today.

    Here's Watson Kennedy's website.

    http://www.watsonkennedy.com/store/Main.asp
     
  2. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Welcome to the affliction :smile:

    I always love digging through the "instant ancestor" bins at antiques shops, junk stores, flea markets, and wherever I encounter them. There are often real visual treasures to be found that way, and sometimes terrific bargains too. Check out my blog to follow my vernacular collecting.
     
  3. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Cool blog! I will follow it. Old photos seems to be living and have an aura. Am I wrong?
     
  4. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I think they are interesting as well. I don't have to buy them as someone has handed down to me a very large box of them. I also like the stereo cards with that are probably side by side quarter plates. In our area, Penobscot Marine Museum has cataloged a large collection of local postcards from 100 years ago.
     
  5. noacronym

    noacronym Member

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    You will note that these photos STILL EXIST, whereas pictures today will not, when the same amount of time has passed.
     
  6. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Stereoviews came in several sizes. The really early ones are somewhat smaller than 1/4 plate. Then in the 1880s or thereabouts, they shrank to about 1/6 plate. I've seen early stereo cameras that used a 5x7 film/glass plate divided in half for a pair of 3.5 x 5 prints, and I've seen similar sized daguerreotype stereoviews (those are rare and expensive!!!). I have a photo project pipe dream to get one of those Soviet stereo cameras that does 6x6cm negs on 120 and travel the world, re-photographing the places that are in stereoviews I own, as much as possible in the same tripod holes.
     
  7. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I agree about the old photos having a life of their own, especially the ones that are entirely anonymous. Oh, even the ones where the sitter's identity(ies) are known. Like the one I recently bought of Clara Barton and her married lover. There's something in their interaction, where she's looking at the camera, and he's looking off to the side, desperately NOT making eye contact, yet appearing to touch her back. You have to wonder what was going through their minds at the time of the sitting. And given how famous they were (he a Civil War hero, with multiple medals for valor and given combat promotions to Major General, and she the "angel of the battlefield" who would go on to found the American Red Cross), what Mathew Brady was thinking when he took their photo (I feel fairly certain that Mr. Brady himself operated the camera for that sitting, unlike many others that I have by his studio where the sitters are truly anonymous).

    [​IMG]

    I also love that you can really get an insight into the photographers by looking at their work - most of it of course is merely workmanlike, routine, but every once in a while you get a real gem that really captures personality. Another one I have is from Alexander Gardner's studio in DC. I suspect again that Alexander Gardner himself was the camera operator, given the virtuosic posing - everyone is looking somewhere different, yet the group dynamic flows harmoniously, and gives you a sense of how lively a bunch of people they must have been. And then the quirk of the posing stand over in the corner all by its lonesome - what was the photographer thinking by including it? Was it a subtle way of saying "I'm so damned good I don't need that posing head clamp", or was it sloppy oversight in a test photo? But if it was a test photo, why was it trimmed and mounted on a studio card? And in the wet plate era, trying to get a group of people that large to pose well would have been like herding cats!

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    Yep. Picture is people's only form of immortality. Some of the gestures and poses are very subtle yet powerful. Within the short period of the exposure of the film is very revealing about the subject. I find some of the old photographic papers interesting too. I wish paper makers would make some silver gelatin papers without florescent brighteners.
     
  9. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    If you really want some alternatives, over on The Light Farm, Denise Ross (who is a regular participant here) has info on how to coat your own silver gelatin papers, on a very wide range of paper bases.
     
  10. DannL

    DannL Member

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    Keep it up and you may find yourself having a string of luck, as I did. I have always fancied portraiture, and years ago I started in on a small collection of tin-types. Through the years I focused on spotting good photographs amongst the ordinary. One day in an antique store in the middle of nowhere I spotted a portrait style photograph on a cabinet that I just felt I had to own. I had no knowledge of the people in the photograph, but the name in the signature sounded familiar. The price was low, meaning to me that the image was of no great value. But, I grab it up, rounded the corner in the store, and there was another portrait style photograph that I liked even more. Should I buy this one, or both? Yeh, what the hell. So, I bought them both, and took the home to do some research. In the end they turned out to be two original signed photographs by Dorothea Lange. I found that experience very exciting. I then returned at a later date to fine an original signed portrait by Olive M. Potts, a large signed photograph by Peder Sather Bruguière, and several photogtraphs possibly by Arnold Genthe or C.H. White. This led me to discover other lesser-known photographic artist's whose work I now admire. But, I must admit that one of the finest vintage portraits that I've found during my quest appears to be that of a photographic artist who's signature I can only translate to Akin. If only I could learn the processes used to create that image, I would be in heaven. Collecting original photographs can be a very rewarding pastime.