Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Lovers

In honour of yesterday's loving couple. Wills so gorgeous in his epaulettes and sash.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Fums Up

Hard to beat the caption, so fums up it is. Yes, Lord Beaverbrook, the little figure here does resemble a Kewpie: the infamous cartoon-strip character (later made into a doll) created by the colorful Rose O'Neill in 1909.

O'Neill was a much-married American magazine illustrator who became a millionairess, thanks to the Kewpie craze. (The name is thought to be a variant on Cupid.) During the teens, O'Neill had a salon in Greenwich Village, where she was known as the 'Queen of Bohemian Society,' and agitated for women's suffrage. Something that doesn't make it onto her Wikipedia page: that besides works like The Kewpies and the Runaway Baby, she was also the author of The Master-Mistress, a collection of fairly overheated Sapphic verses. Later in life she retired to the Ozarks, where she dressed in a loose floor-length gown she called an 'aura.' Her Ozark neighbors--at least according to her biographer--called it a 'flyin’ squirrel dress,' on account of its floppy 'oriental' sleeves.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Meeting in the Bavarian Forest

Again: an anonymous photo-postcard, this one from Germany, date unknown, though one guesses 1940s or 1950s. A scene from some charmed woodland pageant?

Has for sure a certain fairy tale /Cunning Little Vixens quality--though the costume worn by the lady-fox (mouse?) might almost be a design by Sonia Delaunay. One wonders what color the dress and cloak were.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Homo Sapiens

A cyanotype, of course, and one in unusually good condition. Cyanotypes around 1900 were often created on very thin pieces of paper, and other examples in my collection have been ripped or folded or damaged in some way.

Lately the cyanotype method (involving exposure of paper coated with a solution of potassium ferri-cyanide and ferric ammonium citrate to bright sunlight) has been revived by various 'antiquarian' photographers, with sometimes magical results. The odd gay-steampunk duo, McDermott and McGough, are masters of this archaic process: their images look as if they could have been made 120 years ago

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fifties Twin Set and Noose

Gallows humor from the 1950s. It links up, however, with another, possibly even more tasteless, card in my collection, from around 1910: the deathlessly inscribed 'I Have Got to Hang Around Here Awhile.'

Confronted with such perverse images, it may be hard for anyone acquainted with basic American history--not to mention American jazz--to avoid thinking, perhaps, of the 'strange fruit' in the Billie Holiday song. The carnival-style lynchings of black men in the South in the 1920s and 1930s were often documented, of course, by anonymous (presumably) white photographers, who subse-quently made cheap postcards from their negatives and sold them as grotesque souvenirs. Postcards are a window into the past, but also, now and then, into its horrors.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Green Dragon

More anonymous photo mysteries from Emeryville. The girl here--so remarkably poised in her obscene reveal. Our Lady of the Roundabout. Snatch that golden ring.


Brothers? Some sort of performance? Went to the Emeryville All- Image Show yesterday--4 hours of sheer delightful visual gluttony amid the bins of 'vintage paper,' 'dags,' and tintypes. Came back with a bagful of mysterious early-20th- century anonymous photographs like this one. I'm going to post a string of 'em.

The oddest thing here? Surely, the hatted brother's white turtleneck.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

My Dear Pansy

A hand-made Spanish one-of-a-kind card from 1904: the flower done in ink and gouache. Much foxing, some grime, but nonetheless oddly attractive in an old and slightly 'greasy' sort of way. I just finished reading Zoe Heller's novel Notes on a Scandal (from which the film with Judy Dench and Cate Blanchett was made) and it had some of the same characteristics. Fusty, besmirched, a bit foul. But choice nonetheless.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Greetings from the World Upside Down

I got quite a lot of intellectual mileage out of this concept at one point in my career: Saturnalian Reversals, and All That.

Notice Bismarckian-looking general being subdued by Belgian irregular.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

15 Abril 1908

Infantine gallantry.


No idea who this is nor what's going on--nor whether the peculiar coloration was by accident or design. I bought it at the Vintage Paper and Ephemera fair in Golden Gate Park from a man selling anonymous photographs.

Not exactly the blue of the cyanotype---more the blue of Mexican bottle glass when light shines through it. You know: that azul.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Institution for the Blind

Another spring-like image for April. All the blind flower-maidens. Some of them must have had children. Are any of the children still alive? Are any of the childrens' children alive? May we all find peace.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Rabbit Love

I think It's correct to say this is an Unusual Graphic--one made all the more so for me because I can't understand the caption at bottom. Not even sure what language it is. Something Eastern European? Czech?

There's a line in a Margaret Drabble novel in which one character says (wistfully) of her weedy English husband, 'Derek's not very masterful.' This rabbit, on the contrary, seems to be masterfulness epitomized.