Monday, January 31, 2011

Lost Angel (A Found Photo)

This is actually a contact print. That is, it is printed the size of the negative itself. ((Approx 2 1/2" x 3 1/2")

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Early 20th Century Love Story

While rummaging through my box of 'found photos' of theatre life in the early 1900s, I came across two portraits. As I researched the identities of the people portrayed, I discovered how their lives intermingled long ago in the 1920s.

The first portrait was of a woman named Eunice Tietjens. I discovered she was a Chicago gal born in the late 1800s with a propensity for writing poetry. She eventually became the editor for the acclaimed POETRY magazine. But, prior to that, she had worked for the Chicago Daily News as a war correspondent during World War I. As it turns out, Eunice liked to travel, and over the years lived in such far away places as Japan, China, Italy, Tunisia, and on the South Pacific Island of Moorea.

Eunice Tietjens

But, let's return to her world of poetry. I chased down some of her writings, and found her poetry quite interesting. Here is one, by way of example.

Presence of Eternity

The stones grow old.
Eternity is not for stones.
But, I shall go down from this airy space,
This swift white peace,
This stinging exultation;
And time will close about me,
And my soul stir
To the rhythm of the daily round.
Yet, having known,
Life will not press so close,
And always I shall feel time ravel thin about me.
For, once I stood
In the windy presence of eternity.

In further study, I discovered that this poem had once been embedded in a longer poem she had written. A poem entitled, The Most Sacred Mountain. It was a reference to Mt.Tai Shan in China. Mt. Tai Shan is one of the five sacred Taoist mountains there, and undoubtedly Eunice took that trek while living in China.

Further perusing of Eunice Tietjen's poetry reveals that a number of her poems were written to, or about, someone by the name of Cloyd Head. This brings us to the other portrait in the box of photos.

Cloyd Head

So, who was Cloyd Head? Well, he too, grew up in Chicago in the early 1900s. He began writing plays, and became a notable playwright. Later, he became the theatrical director, and business manager of Chicago's acclaimed Goodman Theatre. During this time, The Little Theatre Movement was beginning to emerge in a number of cities, and Chicago was one of the foremost of these. In a way, The Little Theatre Movement was a counterpoint to the emergence of the new medium of cinema, and also to the fact that American Theatre was increasingly centered on commercial themes. Little Theatre attempted to focus on new and often experimental plays that centered on issues around more social and artistic concerns than mainstream theatre.

So, Cloyd Head wrote a play called 'The Grotesques'. It was quite innovative, and written in verse. Little Theatre was its ideal venue. Furthermore, because it was written in verse, it caught the attention of POETRY magazine's editor, Eunice Tietjens, who published it in the magazine. And this is how Eunice Tietjens and Cloyd Head crossed paths. They married in 1920, and went away for a year to live in Tunisia. While there, their keen observations of that atmosphere, and the customs and ideals, led to a collaboration on a play called Arabesque. Upon returning to the states, Arabesque soon opened (1925) on Broadway starring Bela Lugosi, as the Sheik of Hammam.

So, there you have it, a little story I discovered in a box of photos this morning. If I may add a tangential observation here, it would be about Bela Lugosi. This Hungarian actor was quite revered in his native country as a serious theatrical actor. Unfortunately, once American cinema swept him up he was forever typecast in roles of melodramatic villainy, mad scientists, and of course, Dracula. Later his life disintegrated, and he lived in near abject poverty and drug addiction. Sadly, (as far as I am concerned) he died, and was buried in his Dracula cape. People said it was his final wish. I call it his final resignation.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Florence Vandamm, Broadway Photographer

One of my prize flea market finds was a box of photographs featuring theatre of the '20s and '30s in New York. This would include not only Broadway, but photographs from other theatrical productions in other cities that were part of the 'Little Theatre' movement in the early 1900s. I will feature a number of these in the near future. The one posted here, may be the prize of the bunch, however. First of all, it was taken by Florence Vandamm, a photographer who was considered, the photographer of record for the Broadway of the '20s and '30s. In the lower right, you can see her name stamped in raised letters.

Secondly, this is an amazing, and perhaps rare photograph considering the subjects. Florence Vandamm preferred shooting subjects sitting in formal poses, and often in rich, shadowy settings. This photograph was likely shot in the mid to late '20s, I haven't been able to pin the date down yet. And who are these people? I'll list them beneath the photo.

From left to right: Lee Simonson, a noted set designer of the era, and as shown here, a member of the New York Theatre Guild's Board of Directors. Then we have Theresa Helburn, Philip Moeller, Helen Westley, Maurice Wertheim, and Lawrence Langner. These people were not only members of the Board of Directors, they were the people who actually FOUNDED The Theatre Guild! So, in short, quite an impressive grouping of early Broadway notables, shot by the era's foremost Broadway photograher!

Will The Real Mrs Stewart Please Stand Up?

As many a by-gone 'house wife' could tell you, it was the problem of the ages. How to get those 'whites' really white! Al Stewart was a traveling salesman in the 1870s. One thing he always carried in his bag of goods was a bottle of a liquid bluing solution that was guaranteed to whiten those whites. He made the concoction at home using a formula he had come by. The first bottles produced were of hand-blown glass, corked off, and sealed with wax. The label was a hand written one, and pasted on the bottle by hand. In the 1880s, an investor helped him improve this product. He was advised to put a photo of an older woman on the bottle. A granny figure, since everyone loves their granny.

Well, he got in trouble with his wife when he asked to use her picture. She refused. So, he got a picture of his mother-in-law, and used her on his label. The image was of a rather stern-looking granny. Over the coming years, as sales increased, it was determined that Mrs. Stewart needed a 'make-over'. A friendlier looking modern granny. So, they replaced grim granny with a silver haired, smiling granny complete with a stylish hair-do. Well, the many fans of the product would have nothing to do with that. They sent letters of protest demanding to have their original granny back. And so, now, many years later, the original grim granny prevails, even though the product has evolved in other ways. Currently it is sold in plastic bottles featuring grim granny's stern glare!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Linda From Long Ago

Well, Linda is just a name I gave her. I found her captivating picture at a flea market, and bought it. I would sit and look at her often, wondering who she was, when and where she lived, and what was her life like. She had such a strong clear gaze. You can tell along the edges it had once been nicely framed.

Yes, that is me in one of my many early 70s 'disguises'. I framed the picture. I even brought a flower to her now and then, and I'd drape it over the frame. When people asked who she was, I'd just say, "That's Linda, from long ago."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vintage Sheet Music Photography and Graphic Design

Sheet music covers give us over the years, a glimpse of both the music and the art of a given era.

1925, Love Dreams

1926, My Cutey's Due At Two To Two

1930, Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone

1936, The Great Ziegfeld

1939, Pinocchio

1946, Gypsy

1952, The GlowWorm. This song was originally copyrighted in 1902, but this cover is of the 'Modern Version'.

!954, Pagnini Variations. Note the early modern graphic art. Calder-esque, perhaps.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Color Photo Prints from the '30s

I've always loved looking at vintage color images. Something about the depth of color, or saturation, richness. The color tones were basically a product of whatever the state of the technology offered at the time. The kinds of photo emulsions, separations employed. The state of the art, as well, with respect to print reproduction techniques. Post-photo print hand colorization is sometimes evident, as well.

Bernarr Macfadden was a proponent of 'physical culture' in the '20s and '30s. Physical culture referring to a combination of body building, nutrition, and other health issues. His Eight Volume work, The Encyclopedia of Health was outstanding in his time. Here are a few photos from Volume Five: 'Personality', published in the 1930s.

(Click on photo to enlarge. Click again for closer detail, or to read text beneath the image)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Three Photos from the Early 1900s

I bought a bundle of large format negatives at a flea market, and upon studying them, they appeared to be shots taken while on a road trip across America. In some, a family was depicted in mountains and snow, in others, among palm trees, and so on. I will post some more of these soon. Meanwhile, here are a few examples that suggest the early 1900s. (Click on image to enlarge. Click again for even closer detail.)

A well dressed woman of the day.

A young girl poses with a bouquet of flowers.

A woman with a distinctive style of dress poses behind an early roadster convertible. They were riding in style! Note the flag. If I am not mistaken, it is an early Canton flag depicting a random array of stars on the blue field.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Since it is January......

You can click on images to enlarge. Double click for closer looks.

...I'll start with this. A 1946 calendar page by Alberto Vargas. His name is sometimes incorrectly identified as Varga. His work, as in this calendar image was often signed Varga. His full name, however, was Joaquin Alberto Vargas Y Chavez. A Peruvian painter who worked in watercolor and airbrush, and had a fondness for women. His images of women were quite iconic, glamorized, and sexualized. Men found them beautiful, to say the least. In World War II, his images, or facsimilies of them, found their way onto the noses of warplanes. Men in war longed for mythologized versions of what they left behind. For some it was the last image they had of what life was like, before all hell broke loose. The images, published originally by Esquire, re-surfaced later, when Hugh Hefner began showing them in Playboy as Vargas Girls. I'll post the rest of 1946, as each month ticks by, and more about the life of Alberto Vargas. For now, this was Miss January, 1946. And next, a shot of two lost lovers.

Lost Lovers

I bought a box of negatives at a flea market. Funny/sad how this stuff escapes the family treasure box. I am not a scholar, but I suppose these kinds of images are before the war. Maybe in the thirties? I spent a few hours in a makeshift darkroom in the bathroom, developing this and a few other negatives. (There's at least a hundred in the box.) More from that box later. Maybe someone can identify these styles of dress. They sit on a stair step next to a fence. Not unusual for a farmer to make little steps up and down from one pasture to the next. Checking on the cows. and the crops. and, keeping them apart. They are all dressed up. But, note his scuffed up shoes. It is clear he has eyes for her. She's all cute, dressed uo, and embarrassed, shy. Probably a Sunday afternoon, after church. But, we don't know, do we? As for the coffee stains at the upper right, and spilling down the page some. Those are mine.