While I’m on the topic of military themed images, I thought I’d do a (for the most part) no-words review of the military images in my collection.
Another CDV from today’s excursion: I’m assuming the young man is a sailor, based on his attire and the view of the ship through the painted window on the backdrop. The only identifying mark of any kind is the oversized signature on the verso, “Jack”, although the “c” in Jack is oddly formed – could it be Jaek? Jark? Jack seems most likely.
Although it has as much to do with condition as it does the image itself, I love the atmospheric feel of the photo and the Mona Lisa-esque expression on his face. I don’t know if he is in fact a sailor, but without other evidence to the contrary, that’s what I’m calling him.
Here is a vintage silver gelatin print of a sailor’s ritual head shaving on his first crossing of the equator. Note the “mermaid” in long blond wig administering the shaving, and the asian sailor restraining the recipient of the haircut. This must have been a merchant ship, possibly in the Pacific, pre- WW II. In any case, a fascinating snippet of nautical culture as seen from an insider’s perspective.
Here’s a Union soldier, identity unknown, from the William J. Tait studio. This may well have been taken immediately prior to shipping out to battlefields unknown – the studio address is Courtlandt Street and Greenwich Street in lower Manhattan – basically in the site of the modern World Trade Center. Back then it would have been only two or three blocks from the waterfront piers. It’s another image that obviously meant a lot to someone as it has a fold across the middle – someone was carrying it around with them in a pocket. Did the sitter die in combat, or was it just a fond memory of a critical time in US history that inspired the owner to keep it at hand?
In a totally different light, here’s a west coast sailor. This time, most likely the 1890s, on a cabinet card. The original card is a little bit bigger than 3.5″ by 5″. I did a very mild clean-up of the scan in Photoshop to make the image more readable online. The original card is slightly lower in contrast and has a couple very minor spots in the background that do not interfere with the subject. I tried to scan his hat at high resolution to see if I could read the ship’s name he was assigned to, but it couldn’t be resolved (at least not with my scanner).
There’s a noticeable difference between the two photos, and I don’t think it is just attributable to the changes in photo technology between 1860 and 1890. The Civil War sitter has a far more somber expression on his face and in his body language – it’s as if he knows he is going to die, and this is a reminder to send back to his family so they won’t forget him when he’s gone. The 1890s sailor, on the other hand, is having a lark, getting his portrait done while in port perhaps as much a souvenir of the location as anything else. Later I’ll re-scan and post my Hong Kong sailor photos to provide a comparison.