Did you know restaurant menus NEVER use blue ink? It is because blue has been shown to decrease the appetite. Think about it. From the Waffle House all the way to the Four Seasons, every shade of bright, vibrant and fresh appears, but blue is a no-no.
in 1842 Sir John Herschel invented the cyanotype, but it was a woman named Anna Atkins who turned it into an art. In one of the most arcane activities I can imagine, and for some curious reason, Dame Atkins decided to collect algae and save them by laying each on light-sensitized paper, creating some 400 images which were published in the first book of photographs. So the very first photograph book was not only published by a woman, it was composed entirely of blue photographs of seaweed. Only 17 copies exist today.
Cyanotypes must be the least expensive photography technique, as the once ubiquitous "blueprints" used by architects and home builders were cyanotypes.
The most extraordinary property of the cyanotype is it's regenerative behavior. Like a starfish with an arm torn off, they come back! They lose their blue easily, but if a faded cyanotype photograph is stored in a dark environment, a good deal of the original color will return like magic. Maybe we should print money in blue?
Untitled (Lumber truck) cyanotype photograph c. 1915 Collection Jim Linderman
A few days ago, I received the following letter about the Monkey postcards I posted months ago in June...needless to say, I just mailed them off to her as a gift. I'm sure you'll enjoy these excerpts from her mail.
"My Name is Linda, I Would like to know more about the picture Post Cards you have of the St. Louis Zoo St. Louis, Missouri. You Pictured some of my fathers work. The reason I ask is the fact that my father designed and built all the equipment for the shows, and came in to repair cages when needed. It brought back a lot of wonderful memories to see the things my father built in color. I told my children about them. They saw B&W pictures of work in stages. Finished before painting. This gives them the chance to see them in color. My father was a very Talented man. ( design & fabrication ) He was quite a genius.
I felt bad that the blog didn't mentioned the Designer. If you had known him perhaps you would understand why I feel the way I do. He should get credit for his work. He was a wonderful and quite intelligent man. That’s why the zoo contracted him.
When I was 6 to 10 when dad would go to the zoo. He would let me go with him, if I were not in school. Mike would be there doing work with the chimps. I would get to ride the ponies with them. poncho and I were allowed to go for short walks on the zoo grounds hand in hand. It was quite an experience. NOBODY ELSE that I know got to take a chimp for a walk in the park. There was not one vehicle that I didn't get to take a ride in before they went to the zoo. I have so many fond memories of that time. You know we became good friends with Mike (The trainer, dtdb) and his family. When we would go over to their house mike always had a baby chimp in training. He kept them at home while small and raised them as part of his family. Diaper, Pants & shirt. The one's he was training were treated better than a lot of humans. They were exactly like his children. They sat in a high chair at the table to eat until they were able to set at the table and eat along with the family. Mike loved those chimps as if they were his children.
As for PETA half the time they do not know what they are talking about. Those animals were not mistreated by doing shows. They had more LOVE and ATTENTION than a lot of children get from their parents. Oh how I wish those days had not disappeared. Every one seems to find bad in everything. How much things have changed."
Starring in Snows of Kilimanjaro, Featured in Africa's Splendor, Starring in King Solomon's Mine
Untitled (Circus Performer) Anonymous Snapshot, c. 1950 Collection Jim Linderman
Artists often "find themselves" and repeat. Having a recognizable style is important to the career of any artist. After all, what's the use of spending money on a painting if when company comes, they don't recognize the work? "Oh THAT? That's just my VLAMINCK." A good example is Susan Rothenberg. By now she's probably done enough horses to fill Ted Turner's stable, which the last time I checked was about 1/3 of Colorado. I always admired Jasper Johns, because anytime he needed a house, he could paint an American Flag. Not to begrudge them...if you do something well, you should keep doing it.
The King of repeated work is certainly one William Allen Bixler. You've never walked into a room and seen a Bixler? Well, maybe you have but don't know it. His most prolific period was his "old swimming hole" period. Between 1912 and 1918 he painted it 5,000 times. Each was 20" x 30" That's right, 3 million square inches of it. The same painting. Over and Over and Over like a wild animal stuck in a cage too small.
Bixler was a poet and liked poetry. So when he read the James Whitcomb Riley poem "The Old Swimming Hole" he went to the spot which inspired it and painted it up. It was one of his first paintings. Why, i'm not sure, as one line in the poem reads "Whare the old divin'-log lays sunk and fergot and I stray down the banks whare the treese ust to be--" Well, you get it, but something struck a nerve in our prolific artist. A friend printed up a picture of the painting and sent it to the poet, who liked it enough to mail back a gift of his collected works to the painter.
Several years later, folks in Indiana decided to raise money to erect a statue of the Hoosier Bard but how to pay for the tribute? School children collected pennies, and for each school which raised a few dollars, Bixler came and painted the Old Swimming Hole in their school. The painting is adequate. You would NOT confuse it with the Eakins swimming hole. A stump in a pond. For each $12.50 raised, a school would receive a painting and a small bust of Riley. More than a million kids contributed.
When the depression hit, kid's pennies were now worth a meal. Bixley went on to publish several books and commenced a career as a speed-painter of sorts...a Chalk Talker! He would bring his easel anyplace which would put him and his wife up for the night. He gave lectures on the Lord and illustrated them with chalk drawings made on the spot with lightning speed. The book shown here, one of my favorite books of all time, was first published in his home state of Indiana in 1932.
Chalk Talk Made Easy by William Allen Bixler, 1932 (later edition 1948) Collection Jim Linderman
A fashion due for a return...The Painted Knee. Shown here is "Gina" a Moulin Rouge Dancer and one of the first to adopt the latest fad. Ornamental colored faces painted on the knees. The paintings are placed so the figures perform amusing dances or contortions when the owner walks or flexes.
Original Press Photograph Dated 1926 Collection Jim Linderman
Poem printed on reverse of card, with no address or contact information
My kind friends should ever speak
Of the strangest man you know
It would be strange did you not wish
How strange he was to show
Strange pictures on strange cards I have
Telling in a way new
Where you can learn many strange things
Which are both strange and true.
From these strange cards you'll also fine
How very strange I be
And then perhaps you'll purchase some
Strange books written by me
It matters not how strange your church
Or how strange be it's Creed
In my strange teachings you will find
Strange lessons that you need.
To those who see not my strange car
Or look in my strange face
Will your dear friends tell them that I
Am strangest of our race
Then should they wish strange cards or books
My strange writings to see,
Let me know the strange ones they wish
I'll mail them C.O.D.
Cheap photo postcard, c. 1890. Collection Jim Linderman
(also posted on old time religion blog)
Once frightfully close to being a Williamsburg doofus hipster (by virtue of a giant storefront rental and yard right off the bridge and a pair of high-heel red boots) Susan Ward now resides in an area less hipster and much less doofus. On a broken farm with her husband Jason, a wood craftsman, and "Yia Yia" (along with some of the most extraordinary dogs you could ever imagine) she paints teeny, tiny, meticulous vibrant paintings. Each no larger than a few postage stamps. (Zoom OUT in this case) Most are self-portraits of a sort, but wonder dogs often figure prominently. She is one of those "outsiders" who isn't. That is to say, she studied art but managed to retain obsessiveness, a God-given talent and her dignity. She is also a bit askew, but then most artists are. One thing which separates her work from the hoards of painters in her neck of the wood (stock) is their size, of course...but she often manages to cram some serious messages into the miniscule work.
Susan also watched the towers fall. It didn't scar her physically, but it scared her. Her scars come more personal but no less dramatic encounters for an individual. A serious swatch of cancer which she emerged from through good grace and strength of character, a cringing bump to the brain, an exciting family life, the early loss of parents...all character building but none which she deserved. So a bit finds its way into her work with words. "What if I were the sick passenger" Indeed.
Susan is also a top-notch professional dog trainer who has been featured on TV (Animal Precinct and the Early Show). As one of her previous jobs was to determine which San Francisco shelter dogs were salvageable, she knows hard cases. Consequently, her own personal dogs are the most difficult animals you can find and train. She'll choose to raise an uncontrollable cattle dog in Manhattan, a blind, deaf and toothless chiuanna, A former breeding machine pug set free...and they are all the happier for it.
Susan exhibits around the area frequently. She also donates her desirable little paintings to animal fund-raisers and other good causes. Her work will be shown the first week of November (alongside notables such as Laurie Anderson, Ida Applebroog, Sue Coe, William Wegman, Bruce Weber and a dozen more) at the Art for Animals benefit in Spencertown, the poster is shown below her paintings. As is the case with nearly anything Ms. Ward supports, it's good. She will be happy to answer inquiries about her paintings (and maybe sell you one) at firstname.lastname@example.org
A snapshot dated 1938 on the reverse, Sally Rand doing her famous ostrich feather fan dance in Dunham, North Carolina. Sally was born Helen Beck, but Cecil B. DeMille gave her the name she made famous. She worked in silent films, but when sound came in she went out. Maybe she sounded like an ostrich too. This photo was taken five years after her famous appearance at the Chicago World's Fair in which she was arrested 4 times in a single day for indecent exposure (even though, like here, she was wearing a body stocking...maybe) Amazingly, the Chicago performance is now available on youtube! It is remarkable to think some North Carolinian actually snuck a camera inside the show to take this picture, but I am glad he did, and I'm glad I found it tucked among a thousand other photographs. My favorite Sally Rand fact is that among her four husbands was one named Thurkel. This picture is pretty good and the photographer certainly waited until exactly the proper best moment. Maybe Thurkel went out front to take it.
Anonymous Snapshot 1938 Collection Jim Linderman
When I was a kid, I certainly never wanted to run away and join the carnival! To me, carny workers were the scariest folks i'd ever seen. Greasers with tattoos and wallets chained to their belts, slack-skin women with loose dirty print dresses, and a sweaty fat guy who was obviously the boss wandering around making sure they didn't slip any coins into their dirty pockets. Even then, I saw through their tricks and scams, and I figured anyone who would cheat a kid out of a dime would certainly not mind giving you a shiv in the parking lot if you stayed around after closing. Every time I saw a child gypped out of a coin, I resented the local cops wandering around oblivious. They seemed much more interested in "preserving order" than in protecting allowances.
Who would guess carnies could even read, much less pay attention to rules other than "don't trip over the wires, dude." Well, they could, at least some of them, and the others could "see picturs." So here are selected pieces from "Employee's Manual for Amusement Parks" no date.
Carny Rule book, c. 1960 Collection Jim Linderman
Times are pretty bad now, but for a few years in the 1940's, they were much worse. So bad the pennies turned white. You don't find too many of them anymore, but I used to, and like the gentleman above, when I did, I kept them. Copper is a precious metal of sorts, but not precious enough to be worth much, so it became the penny. Penny is a misnomer, the official word for Honest Abe on a coin is "cent" not penny. If you want to be proper, this is a time to save your cents.
During WWII, copper was at a premium. It was used for wire to make radios. Electrical connections to start a truck. And if you have ever heard the expression "copper-jacket" you know what else it was needed for. So Uncle Sam turned the penny white, creating them out of steel instead of copper for one year, 1943. Actually, a few steel cents were made in 1942 and even less in 1944, but the only date you'll find on a white penny is 1943. If you find one. After the war, the white penny was history. It was the only US coin ever produced which was magnetic, but that refers to a property, not a personality, so they were unofficially withdrawn. Some were even pulled from circulation, shipped to the San Francisco mint and dumped in the Pacific Ocean. Unlike copper, they rusted, so the ones you do see now are in pretty bad shape. And unlike the proverbial "bad penny" they do NOT keep returning. Kids still hoard them like the fellow above, but now they go into a little spot in their coin collection.
Is the white penny worth more than a penny today? Barely. In 1943 more than one billion were minted, so even today coin collectors won't pay you more than a cent for one. However, in a curious twist, it was later discovered a few 1943 cents were made out of copper by mistake. In fact, 40 of them. Experts believe just enough copper remained in the hopper at the time of conversion that a few precious copper ones squeezed out. In 1958, the first one was sold for $40,000. Several years later, one sold for over $80,000. Don't get your hopes up. Some rusty old 1943 steel pennies have been coated with copper by unscrupulous folks hoping to "discover number 41" and reap profits. However, they forgot about the magnet. Even a copper coated white penny will stick to a magnet. Today the penny is zinc.
Photo: William Waylet, a bakery salesman, looks with satisfaction on the five-gallon jars of white pennies he has taken out of circulation. Original Press Photo, 1951. Collection Jim Linderman
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I am frequently asked "what happened to Shy Shamed Secret Shadowed Hidden?" Well, the short answer is "it violated terms." The longer answer is that it was shut down by the provider. It seems the web isn't ready for photographs of women in undress, unless they say nothing about the history of photography, society or culture. The collector was, and is, proud of the collection. Each was selected and purchased over the years for a specific reason and to make a specific point about humanity, sexual identity, the role and function of shame in our society, the relationship between men and women, photographer and subject, voyeur and exhibitionist, humor and tragedy, choice and coercion and much more. It was, and is, far more than dirty pictures, although it certainly did attract it's share of viewers who obviously wanted just that. At the time it was shut down, the modest collection of 150 antique and vintage photographs was receiving some 40,000 hits a month. That's right. FORTY THOUSAND HITS A MONTH. For grainy, crumpled antique photographs and scratched-up polaroids from the 1960's. That in itself proves some point. The original essay, notes to the collection, selected cropped images and more is available HERE at the Shy Shamed Secret Shadowed Hidden website. Publishers and the curious are asked to contact email@example.com
Circus Photographer Robert D. Good advertised his services, among other places, in the circus section of Billboard Magazine during the 1940's saying "If you raised the circus, see it in pictures" offering real photo size images. 20 cents would bring you a sample and lists of photographs he had taken in the past. He called his studio "Circus Snaps" and frequently typed captions on the reverse of work along with his stamp.
I love this photograph, and you'll have to enlarge it to see why. A simple enough shot of the Sparks Circus Sleeper becomes a group of boys admiring the Circus Strong Man.
Robert was not only a photographer, he was a well-informed fan of the circus. His letter to Life Magazine on July 19, 1954 tells readers the "last living driver of the 40 horse team pulling the famous Two Hemispheres Band Wagon" was celebrating his 91st birthday. Good passed away in May 1974. A splendid photograph of the photographer appears on the Circus Historical Society "Bandwagon" pages for the May 1964 issue
"Sparks Circus at Lehighton PA. in 1946 Bus Converted into Sleeper for Performers" Robert D. Good Photographer Collection Jim Linderman
The earliest "living flag" reference I find is a group of Los Angeles schoolgirls in the 1890's. A considerable number of them are recorded in that decade so there must be earlier examples. This one is certainly from that period, it is a primitive and ragtag posing but quite charming nonetheless. I am sure the "conductor" had greater expectations when he told the children what to wear then next day. Perhaps the origin of the living flag photograph is to be found in parades after the Civil War?
Arthur Mole had it easier...his participants were used to not squirming like schoolchildren, they being all well-trained soldiers. Several of his staggering works are shown here, they are available at the Library of Congress website.
The funniest living flag is certainly the one in Lake Wobegon, which keeps breaking up as the participants with red, white and blue baseball caps leave to climb to the third story buildings on Main Street and look down. Garrison Keillor has said his living flag was based on a 1917 photograph of several thousand army trainees arranged on a football field to form the Liberty Bell, this was certainly the photo produced by Arthur Mole shown here.
Spencer Tunick, of course, does not ask his participants to wear baseball caps or anything else. To date, the largest Spencer Tunick piece has been 18,000 folks in Mexico City. He is no Arthur Mole, and the idea is getting a bit tired by now anyway.
There was a living flag made in Portugal to celebrate the country's soccer team making the finals in the World Cup, it was comprised of 18,788 women dressed in red, green and black. That one I'd like to have seen, but not as much as a Mole.
"Living Flag" photograph Anonymous c. 1880 Collection Jim Linderman
The beautiful Ida, Iva and Eva Hanna were in the business from age 10 months old. As Iva explained in 1967 from her retirement town of St. Augustine, Florida, there weren't too many triplets in those days who survived...so I guess you could call them freaks who weren't freaks. Their father had them each wear different color ribbons in their hair so he could tell them apart. They worked for Ringling brothers and the A.B. Marcus Musical Comedy group after they learned how to dance. They stopped performing at age 20 when they started getting married. Iva married a stagehand, Eva married Blumpsie, A.K.A Blumpsy the clown. I'm not sure who Ida married, but she did...and all three were happy and kicking their heels up some 60 years after these photos were taken. They regrouped briefly in 1956 to perform and celebrate their 50th birthday. These photos are also posted on WONDROUS WORLD OF FRANK WENDT my tribute and biography of the photographer.
Group of Frank Wendt Cabinet Card Photos of the Hanna Triplets, c. 1910. Collection Jim Linderman
Archiving is a natural thing, I suppose, as is arranging, organizing and documenting. Various content sites such as flickr and a million plus blogs are growing faster than American's waistlines. There is a tendency for humans to share just as there is a tendency for birds to crow. What is usually missed, however, is that social websites have basically created an entire population of content providers, none of whom get paid one penny. In fact, some pay for the privilege. Every image loaded becomes public property of a sort, but it also becomes fodder for search engines to use, manipulate and market. As computerized digital recognition becomes more and more sophisticated, one will be able to specify any characteristic in an image and retrieve it in micro-seconds. "Let's find 50 images which look EXACTLY like Aunt Gertie!" I'm not kidding one bit. (One might also specify a search parameter to find models with their faces obliterated by too much incandescent light, as above) It should give one pause...me? I don't care as I usually retain the originals, and there will always be someone interested in physical objects (at least I think there will). I am also interested in how things age and fall apart more than how they are maintained and preserved. But if you treasure a photo, drawing, painting or doodle with unique characteristics of any kind, you might think about uploading it into the universal brain.
Untitled (Photographer) Snapshot, c. 1940 Collection Jim Linderman
In the early 1930's Dorothy Chase was stylist for a corset company, a designer, a radio personality and creator of a striking figure analysis chart shown in part here. Her chart "illustrate(s) the obstacles to figure perfection most frequently encountered by the average woman." Personally, I think they are all perfect already.
Prominent Lower Back
Prominent Hip Bones
Fleshy Shoulder Blades
High Prominent Abdomen
Fleshy Through Waistline
Heavy Thigh Flesh
"Something Different, Especially for You" brochure, c. 1930 Collection Jim Linderman