Friday, December 30, 2011

Your Move Pussy

The fur very nice and greasy here--though in one of those oddities of chromolithography, the cat seems to be in black and white and everything else in color.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Don't Forget Me

Okay, I won't.

A Few More Drag Kings

Some more images on the theme addressed in my last post. . . .

Christmas, in case you wondered: a chocolate egg, orange-flavored.

Click any image to enlarge

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Us Again

A tiny, so-called 'gem' tintype. Feminist art history types will perhaps be familiar with the late 19th-century American photo-grapher Alice Austen: she left a number of amusing amateur portraits of herself and various female friends in drag. Most of the photos were taken on Staten Island, where she lived and worked; Austen's house is now a historic landmark.

If my own experience collecting anonymous photographs is anything to go by, however, such gender-bent portraits were not as rare as one might have thought. I have at least twenty photos and tintypes of male impersonators--butches galore, in fact. One is tempted to declare the Victorian drag-king photo a topos or commonplace in late 19th-century vernacular photography. Euphoria optional.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Forties Snow

Deaccessioned from a Chicago newspaper archive. Slow burn, colored sleet--by me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yet Another Eye Patch

Wotan--or just a jolly stage brigand? This slightly faded vintage photograph has an embossed label at the bottom reading "J. Souhrada." Photographer? studio?

And what an odd object the man holds in his leather-gloved hands. The girls, bye the bye, look ready for pretty much anything. Traviata, Girl of the Golden West.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tatiana Troyanis (1938-1993)

One of the cavalcade of great female singers who died brutally young: Maria Malibran, Conchita Supervia, Kathleen Ferrier, Lucia Popp, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson... Even Callas too, in a way.

I saw Troyanis in one of her final performances at the San Francisco Opera: as the Countess in Strauss's Capriccio. She wore the most gorgeous dress: diaphanous, flowing, rainbow-tinted, rococo. The costume designer was Gianni Versace--likewise very soon to die. I don't know the name, unfortunately, of the photographer who took this extraordinary publicity photograph.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Tiki Hut Theme

...for today. I'm still on Oahu, in that strange place known as Resortland. An extraordinarily arduous hike today culminating in a steep and wildly slippery descent into the Waimea Bay South Valley. A man in our party was unable to stay on his feet, and so went down more or less through the jungle muck on his rump. White shorts gone the color of the Hawaiian red dirt, the sort used to make the famous tee shirts. Luckily, we didn't have to do this challenging trek on ice skates.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Brave USN Boys

Unplanned coincidence: awoke this morning in Honolulu. The 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor; somber flyovers; the dipping flags from passing ships; speeches by Japanese dignitaries; ancient men slowly rising to salute. Thoughts of my dear late stepfather Turk: teenage submariner in the last months of the Pacific war. He was here a lot ('Pearl') during his 30-year career as a Navy chief. Remembering his funeral, the 7-gun salute, the folded flag and spent bullet casings.

Monday, December 5, 2011

People In Threes

Sailor suits and Chekhov on the prairies; bow tie sprung loose and now I'm finally relaxed; playtime ukelele and cigarettes and a stretchy 40s sweater-top.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Climax Tin Tag Plug...

...Tobacco. Don't ask me to explain.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Just Put Your Lips Together and Pull

An anonymous photograph from who knows where--one of two I have featuring these inquisitive girl-tots.

Have to say I'm a little bit tired of the general idea: over the past 10 years lots of photographers have used miniature figures like these in set-up tableaus. David Levinthal's Hitler Moves to the East 1941-43 was one of the earliest and most successful of these projects, but he's been much copied.

For some reason I keep wondering if the (I think much older) photo posted here comes from somewhere in Eastern Europe. Has a 'Czech' quality to it. Or possibly Hungarian.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Benson's Colour Chart

Just what it says on the can. Says what it just can. Can just say on what it says.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mysterious Dredging

An enigmatic scene in a stream in a forest. (Click to enlarge.) Four men--variously, and oddly, dressed--seem to be searching for something underwater with poles and a rake. Why does one think (as if by default) it must be a body?

Though the men don't have a net, the image reminds me somehow of Eudora Welty's 'The Wide Net'--one of her brilliant bucolic tragicomedies.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nessun Dorma

Louis Wain cats in what appears to be a bloodcurdling scene from Turandot.
Wain went mad later in life, of course, and was institutionalized. But even in his pre-madness cat pictures one can often detect an air of psychic menace.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Well, Not Every Frenchwoman... unbelievably hot, it turns out. How could I leave the City of Lights--demain--without posting Mme Delait and her dog? Two hairy angels. There are other Mme Delait postcards in existence--a set in fact-- but so far this is the only one I have. As you can imagine, they're quite expensive. One has to ask (oneself) what makes them so desirable.

In strange Parisian convenience store tonight, buying a three-pack of Toblerone bars. The man in front of me was a shoplifter, who had just been dragged back into shop by beefy guard. (I watched it happen.) He'd apparently had a tall can of '1664' beer in his pocket for which he had failed to offer remuneration. They didn't reprimand him or arrest him, just led him back to the cash register like a horse. We had to wait while he fumbled through pockets for predictably nonexistent cash.

Au revoir, Paris.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Séverine, Potinated

One of the very few women (other than female royals) in the Felix Potin photo-card series from around 1900. The series is devoted mainly to French 'great men' (scientists, writers, generals, politicians) of the late 19th century. The cards themselves are the size of cigarette cards, but I can't recall at the moment if they were indeed packaged with cigarettes. Felix Potin was a fantastically successful French department store magnate of the 19th c. The cards--over 400 in the series-- were a promotional gambit.

And la belle Séverine? (Real name: Caroline Rémy de Guebhard.) *Not* to be confused with the winner of the 1971 Eurovision Song Contest. Rather: one of the great French feminists--journalist, anarchist, Dreyfusard (e?), supporter of Russian Revolution, etc. etc. A snappy dresser too, in a certain dykey-Belle Epoque mode.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gaby En Route

....for the casino at Deauville! A strange French card from times past: I can't tell if it's handmade or printed. Someone's written on it, obviously; the subject would seem to be fashion. A splotchy postmark on the skirt hem.

I walked all the way up the Boulevard Raspail today to the Cimetière Montparnasse. Sunny, golden, crisp late, late autumnal day. I had a rendezvous with myself.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

In Paris France

. . . . so it seemed the right thing to do. The little deco designs have been painted on balsa wood and the tinted photobooth picture is inset.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cream Scissors

For when your cream is simply too clotted....

I've been dreadfully erratic about posting. Chalk it up to the day job. My dear kittens, it's true: these Clarendons are kicking my arse. No 3 tonight.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Two Rather Fine Dogs

Plus I like the cockeyed angles, intersecting deck beams and sensuous Polaroid color. Extraordinary movement in these seemingly accidental experiments with blueness, greenness, dog-ness, sunlight, zigzags.

Monday, October 31, 2011

BBQ at Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Corpus Christi College President's Guest Room or 1950s American sitcom?

Lesbian or German lady? What about Lesbian and German lady? It can happen, you know.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Miss Gertrude Elliott

A stage beauty, as they say. American-born actress (1874-1950) though spent most of her career in England, where she played many roles--notably Shavian and Shakespearean--in partnership with her husband, the actor/producer Johnston Forbes-Robertson. They played in a silent film version of Hamlet in 1913. I find the blue-green tinting of this card, a sort of surreal aquamarine, enormously appealing.

Oim 'ere in London, and watched a television program last night about the music-halls--Little Tich, Marie Lloyd, et al. Great stuff. Put me in the mood for Gert. Any Gert.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pantyhose Banditti

I tried to talk the dealer down on the price for this one; he declined--on the ground that in all the years he'd been selling vintage photos and postcards, he'd never before come across one of people wearing pantyhose on their heads. I had no choice but to pay full price and look sympathetic. Indeed, nod sagely.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Alexander Pope, ca. 1950

Dept. of the Photo-Uncanny: I've spent the last month thinking and writing about him for my Oxford lectures, then last week at the vintage photo show in Emeryville I found this eerie anonymous snapshot of him. Who knew he'd lived into his 200s?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wordsworth in the Tropics

Oh, dear--working so frantically on lectures for Oxford, all else has slid away this week. I did go to the latest installment of the All-Image Show in Emeryville. Among other things uncovered: this lovely chemically damaged, verging-on-abstract Polaroid.

Yes, that appears to be an extravagant-looking cake in the lower right corner.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I Must See The Address in That Purse

Stop it, stop it, Brutus--can't you see I have sconces growing out of my head?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Clarion Alley

Not postcard at all, but photo taken on beautiful Clarion Alley last year, in the Mission. My favorite example of stencil art I've seen in the City. It's now long gone, covered over by other inventions.

The scrubby grass at bottom: so urban, so valiant and unsung.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Death's Door

Late nineteenth-century view of Sandgate High Street, near Folkestone, Kent. Lived here for three years as a child in the early 1960s. Precisely where one sees the columned portico, was a 'zebra crossing' (PED XING in American). As a 9-year-old I stepped out gaily without looking and was nearly killed by a speeding motorcyclist. My mother, with a scream, had pulled me back at the last instant by the scruff.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Outer Limits

It might look like a style-saturated Paul Outerbridge now--but back then, in one's childhood--Montgomery Ward's for back to school.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Okay, this one is even more gross than the Nursing Goat--don't ask me why, but it is.

The mother, the child, and the cat all seem to be from different cartoons--as if three different artists had drawn them.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Hugo Brothers

Les frères Hugo again, Antoine and Baptiste, with members of their family. For the long and the short of it on them, see previous blog post, 1/22/11.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

Romulus and Remus Department

One loves goat's milk cheese; one even loves goats. Then why should this example of Marxist demystification repulse? One ought to take a kind of revolutionary pleasure in it, no?

Something to do with the kid's expression, extended pinky, and Dionysian little belly.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rifles, Target

Liked this odd handmade postcard for its verging-on-abstract, slightly 'collaged' quality: the rifles and paper target have been glued onto the blood- red background. Reminded me too of an abstract-looking photo of a target by Roger Fenton--one of his astonishing pictures from the Crimean war.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Justice Poodle, June 11, 1907

It's cards like this one that make one want to collect postcards. So one does.

Rotograph, Mon Amour.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Me Myself and He

Presumably a father and son? If so, the father is really quite young. Some charming fantasy, too, in the paternal persona: Kodachrome red shirt, string tie, pen (minus pen holder). Nixonian. There was a period in the mid-1980s when every lesbian one knew wore a string tie.

The kid: oh, Kid. You remember the Chrissie Hynde song.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Woman By the Sea

An Art Nouveau postcard by Raphael Kirchner, portrait painter and postcard artist (1876-1917). Not the kind of thing I usually like, but nonetheless a thing of a kind I kinda like.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Quiz Kids

From the $1 anonymous photo bin:

We so much want to understand....