Another recent auction acquisition. This is a minuscule 1/9th plate (roughly 2 inches x 2 1/2 inches) Daguerreotype of two brothers. I bought this one because of the relatively unusual size (1/9th plate and smaller Dags are less common) and the subject – I’m not used to seeing 1/9th plate images of more than one person. It has condition issues – while the case still has the original hinge intact, the bottom of one side is missing, as is the lining of the bottom of the image side. The interesting thing about it is that it reveals the case in this instance is made of a thin wood box covered with tooled leather. Some of these cases were made of essentially cardboard before being leather-wrapped. I did do a little bit of cleaning on this one, as the original seals, while present, were badly deteriorated and lots of dust had gotten inside the glass. There is still some kind of schmutz on the surface of the plate, and I do not yet know how to safely remove it, so I am holding off on that. I have digitally cleaned up the scan of the plate to show the potential, but left some of the blotches in the image to give an idea of what it looks like in its present state.
My latest acquisitions for the collection – a husband-and-wife pair in leather/pressed paper case. These are probably early-mid 1850s judging from the case and the mats. The brass frame for the package says later, but the simpler mats argue earlier. These were purchased at another online auction (not eBay) and found at an outstanding price in part because the seller did not know how to photograph daguerreotypes. I have not opened up the packets to get rid of the dust between the glass and the dag plate because the original seals are intact, at least on the wife’s photo.
The photographer is unknown, as are the subjects. Very subtle hand-coloring can be seen on the plates, most notably in the man’s face and the woman’s dress.
The inscription on the back is a bit cryptic – “Please Exchange”. Exchange for what? Unless they didn’t like the pose, I can’t see what’s wrong with it to want to exchange it. The CDV is actually in excellent condition, with no creases, bent corners, or overall flaws to the print. I’m certainly happy with it!
He looks “western” with that hat and coat, but that’s not saying much – although the outfit has a cowboy feel to it, he’s obviously a very rich cowboy, as that’s a very fine coat. Brooks Brothers would be proud to hang such a coat in their showroom today.
This is an anonymous portrait by Bogardus, one of the “big names” in mid-19th century American portrait photography. The carte itself and the print are in excellent condition, and I love the photographer’s blind stamp on the back. I’m including two more below by Bogardus to show the different blind stamps he used. I’m sure it evolved further over time, but these are the ones I have in my collection.
On a parallel but unrelated note, I think the cabinet in the Nellie Keeler and plump lady photos is to Bogardus what the “Reaper” clock is to Brady (as referenced in my previous blog post). The article I linked mentioned that the author found two copies of the Reaper clock like the one Brady had in his studio – it would be very cool to find Bogardus’ sideboard and bring it into a studio.
An anonymous couple by Brady’s New York studio (if the backmark follows the formula I’ve interpolated, this is from the NY studio because it is listed first). The carte itself is in immaculate condition, and this is another variation on the studio imprint. Brady seems to have changed his often, unlike others (Fredricks, Gurney, Bogardus, Eisenmann) whose imprints remained largely unchanged throughout their studio operations.
Where does inspiration come from for your personal work? For me, it comes not only from the world around me, but also from images I see, particularly in my journeys as a collector. I read voraciously (my house movers can attest to that when they brought 50-odd boxes of books up two flights of stairs), I collect vintage anonymous vernacular work, I go to openings, and I consume as much visual media as I can.
I was looking around for additional pieces to add to my collection of Tom Thumb images when I came across this little gem –
And by little I do mean little – it’s 3 x 2 1/2 inches, smaller than a carte-de-visite. I was fascinated by the brilliance of the composition – even though this was most likely taken with a little box camera using 127 size film. The photographer posed the subject in such a way as to achieve near perfect symmetry of the subject’s form, contrasting with the dynamic sweep of the backdrop fabric. The style and lighting reminded me of the modern work of a photographer I admire – Reuven Afanador.
Reuven’s work has a very ‘vintage’ feel to it, and this body of images is highly reminiscent of 19th century wet-plate work.
Finding this little photo of the bodybuilder inspired me to shoot a new series working with the same kind of backdrop and lighting. Ideally with a daylight studio, but I’ll take what I can find right now as I’m studio-less.
Albumen print, three men on a rockfall, mounted on brown card stock. This was another rescue from the $1 bin at a local antique store. I’m guessing it was taken somewhere around Washington DC as most of the photos in the dollar bin seemed to be local. Beyond that I have no idea where it was taken, when, or of who.
This was a beautiful dag, in such nice condition and with such overall quality that it seemed a crying shame to pass it up, especially at the price it went for.
I particularly love the use of soft light to model the face. This is what a good portrait is all about – an accurate yet absolutely flattering rendering of a subject. One of the reasons I collect images like this is to have a personal library of excellent images to use as reference material when shooting my own portraits. You can study an image like this for hours and never get bored of looking at it.
Here’s a neat anonymous vernacular photo of a man, his car and the open road – it’s in many ways the American archetype. The car is a 1938 Packard (appears to be a Packard 120, their ‘entry level’ model, sort of like a Mercedes C-Class today).
Despite the fact that the car is a near-luxury car, this is so emblematic of the American psyche – a man and his car on the open road, the spirit of freedom and independence. It’s also remarkable to see how far the American roadscape had come by 1938 from 1919 when then-Lt.Col. Eisenhower crossed the country in a military convoy averaging 5.6 mph, requiring 573 hours to cover 3250 miles. Less than 10% of the road surface in the US was paved in 1919. I took the same approximate route Eisenhower did, in 2000, and it took roughly 42 hours (3 1/2 days at roughly 12 hours a day).
Here’s a charming little anonymous CDV of Rugerson & Hodges’ General Store and Post Office. No location given – maybe Pennsylvania or somewhere in New England? If anyone out there in internet land has any idea of the location, feedback would be much appreciated.