A FOGGY DAY in London town?

I found this snapshot in an antique store. Though small in size I knew that once enlarged there would be something interesting. That's what I like about found photos. I've said before that you often don't see the details upon first look.


I often see other collectors, whether in books or online,  stating that they are presenting the shots at 100 percent size so that the viewer can experience what it was like to find the actual photo. Not sure completely how I feel about this because for me the image, the content of the image, is what's important. I want to be drawn into the image and I don't put as much value on the actual object I'm holding in my hand, which is often quite small. I think of the person that took the photo, what they saw at the moment they took the shot. They wanted to capture something that was before them which, let's admit, was not tiny. Obviously we aren't going to experience any of the found images life size, but we have the ability to enlarge them and look into the world, examine it for the details. 

I have no idea where this shot was taken, but for me it's full of mystery. From the details of the signage I'd say it was taken in England in the 40s or 50s. To the left is a sign "Gould Dispensing Chemist" which sounds very English, possibly Canadian. 

I find it interesting that all of the people are almost neatly grouped in a vertical which adds to the overall vertical feeling of the shot. The man about to disappear down the side street with the woman in uniform following behind. There are a lot of stories that could be spun about what appears here. I imagine a freeze frame in a movie while opening credits run, the music then fades, and this photo comes to life with all the people moving. Which one is the main character of the story about to unfold?



Last summer I was wandering through my local flea market when I spotted this vintage photograph. I was immediately drawn to it, asked the price, and was told 3 dollars. Okay, first thing you need to know is I'm cheap. Very cheap. I put the photo back down and told the woman I'd have to think about it. I wandered around unable to concentrate on anything else I was seeing. Three dollars. I was stupid to not grab it. But then I kept thinking where will I hang it? It measures 12" x 14". Not huge, but just not sure what to do with it. Obviously I went back and said "I'll take it!" Had a bit of a scare because the woman had hidden it behind a stack of cheezy paintings and I immediately was mentally hitting myself upside my head thinking "FOOL! It was only 3 bucks!" She'd hidden it for me so nobody else would buy it. Nice lady. Anyway, enough about how I found this and a little bit about the photo.

mervyn silberstein_tatteredandlost

The photographer was Mervyn D. Silberstein and this hand tinted photo has a date of 1914 beneath his name.

Mr. Silberstein was born in 1885 in San Francisco. However, he was raised in Healdsburg, California, north of San Francisco in Sonoma County. His father owned a dry goods store. While attending college in Healdsburg he took up photography. He was already a cartoonist and a writer for a local paper, the Sotoyome Sun. Eventually he opened his own photography store where he sold supplies and did photography work for the local community.

In around 1909 the Silberstein family moved back to San Francisco. Mervyn got a job at an advertising agency where he did graphic design, then called commercial art. He is responsible for the FTD Mercury symbol used by the florist industry.

He was fascinated by Chinatown and it is here that he took this photo. His work around Chinatown, mostly photographing children, covered this part of San Francisco following the great earthquake of 1906. He took mostly snapshots, though some photos were posed with costumes.

His photos were marketed as both postcards and, as he called them, Chinee-Graphs which were sold in wooden frames like shown surrounding the photo above. The frame on mine is original. He claims that his work had been shown in art galleries around the country. I do have one review written by C. S. James, Critic Picture Department of the high end SF department store S. & G. Gumps stating, "...Mr. Silberstein's pictures...belong to an entriely higher class, being worthy of being classed both in photography and painting as art works."


Mr. Silberstein died in 1956. Currently the Healdsburg Museum is the repository of much of Mr. Silbersteins work, including his cameras. They can be reached at P.O Box 952, Healdsburg, CA, 95448. Phone number is 707.431.3325.

That three dollars was worth every penny because looking at this smiling "grandfather" with the child always makes me smile. I get drawn in wondering about the people, if their relatives are still alive living in the SF/Bay Area. I wish there was more information online about Mr. Silberstein. You can find more examples of his work at the Online Archive of California located at Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. Do a search of the page and about 3/4 of the way down you'll find a list of Silberstein's photographs, one of which is of this same elderly man and child, but a slightly different shot.

To see either of the images above larger simply click on the image.



"Ben, let's get a picture of Ben, Jr. standing next to his brother...I mean the tv. Okay, Bennie stand to the side, yes...smile. Show grandma your missing teeth. No, no...don't step in front of your brother...I mean the screen. That's right. Oh you look so precious. Doesn't he look precious? Bennie pull your jacket down a little on the left, it's' riding up. Ben, would you fix Bennie's jacket? And why don't you hold Uncle Jake's picture. No, just on the corner, don't get in front of...of the...screen. Just put your arm around your brother for crying out loud...I mean the tv. Okay, that's good. Ben, how does it look in the camera?"

"Mom, my arm hurts."

"Just a minute Bennie. Ben TAKE THE PICTURE! Bennie's arm hurts. Ohhhhhhhh...that's just precious. Just precious. Grandma is going to be so happy to see the two of you together."

And so goes another day in the world of vernacular photography brought to you by "One Can Only Imagine," the reality that never existed.




or is it 808? I'm never sure. It seems pretty obvious that Bob/808's jersey was hand painted. You can see the paint running from the bottom of the letters. Was this Bob's own private team or was this a high school with few funds in the 1930s? And to get even a little weirder, was his name Bob Kittens or was he playing for a team named the "Kittens"? Just another one of those eternal vernacular photography questions. Who are these people? What are they doing? Where did they come from?

Here's to Bob, or team member 808, of the rough and tumble Kittens basketball team.

Bob Kittens_tatteredandlost



I am so moved by what is happening today. All who came before who never believed they'd see a day like this. I imagine this woman is long since gone, not here to raise her voice in a song of joy. But I look at her smile and imagine her thinking, "Someday. Someday."


THIS ABOUT sums it up

On this historic eve these photos seem to sum up all of it. We're sick and disgusted we've had to live through the past 8 years, makes us want to vomit, but...


now we're hopeful we're on the right path. Look both ways, drive carefully, be courteous to other drivers, pay attention to what you're doing, and head for your goal. Good luck to all of us. Ladies and gentlemen...start your engines!

Click on images to see them larger.


HERE'S TO THE LADY we can't remember

She'll forever be nameless, but let's hear it for the lady who was there at the beginning. The party animal we both became. Was she traveling alone? Off to see the world after working her entire life in a small office receiving no respect? Did she go to the limbo class? And when we docked was she off on a pure Hawaiian adventure with a beach boy in an outrigger canoe? Oh, it gives the heart pause to think that maybe she lived out her fantasies on our little fantasy island.


50 YEARS AGO today

Fifty years ago today I met my best friend on the SS Matsonia as our two families sailed from San Francisco to the territory of Hawaii. We were both born in California, at opposite ends of the state, but as daughters of military officers we had lived all over the country and were each moving from the cold of the East Coast to the warmth of Oahu. Little girls with a huge wondrous ship to explore. We met because some wise person decided it would be nice to seat two families with two little girls at the same table. 

The question I have is...who is that little old lady in the hat? I don't remember her at all and I wonder what her story was. But I bet she was very clean. And why have I forgotten the name of the waitress? For so long I remembered her name, but no more.

Here's to us, for 50 years, best friends. Sisters.  

THEY SHOOT PEOPLE who hang laundry, don't they?

This is a tiny found photo, very tiny, but within that less than 1.5" there's a lot going on. I was drawn to it because of the girl and her dog. Sometimes I get a bit tired of the old saying "a boy and his dog" and think people forget the relationship girls have with their dogs. I like this dog and the little girl posing with it, caught in the moment as she's saying something. Was she telling the dog to hold still or was she saying something to the photographer?

I also like the huge house across the street with laundry out in the large side yard. Again, many things just made more sense then. You could hang your laundry out without threats from a home owners association. You didn't care if your neighbors saw what you hung on the line because their laundry was also hung out. A warm spring day with a gentle breeze blowing, the sound of a carriage in the distance coming up the road.

To see a larger version of the photo simply click on it and you'll be taken to Flickr.



BUSTER in the snow

This little tyke appears to be wearing some sort of Buster Brown suit while contemplating eating some really yummy soot laden snow. Hand written caption says "Take a bite?"  

Buster Browns were popular the first part of the 20th Century and were based on a popular newspaper comic character. At this link you can see examples of a Buster Brown paper doll.

Like fads today based on Disney movies, all things Buster and Tige were popular. I remember wearing shoes made by a Buster Brown as a kid in the 50s. I believe the company in some form or other is still in business.

Check out this link at Wikipedia for more information about the comic: Buster Brown

I imagine this was a style frowned upon by most little boys. They couldn't wait to get pants that went to their ankles.

Click on the image to see it larger at Flickr.



GIDDYUP ostrich

This vernacular photo was taken in 1919. It's in an old album I purchased at an estate sale. I don't know anything about the woman on the ostrich. Now there's something you don't get to say everyday in conversation. "Why no, I don't know anything about the woman on the ostrich, but thanks for asking." However, if we were back in 1919 and in South Pasadena, California the question wouldn't seem so silly.

The Cawston Ostrich Farm was opened in 1886 by Edward Cawston and closed in the 1920s. It was a major tourist attraction located on 9 acres 3 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. You could ride in carts pulled by an ostrich, buy ostrich feathers and products made using the feathers, and of course actually get on the back of one of the critters. Note that this poor creature has a bag over its head, the ostrich, not the rider. I'm trying to imagine what this scene must have been like once the wrangler stepped back and let it go. How long did the woman stay on? How far was she thrown? And if I didn't see her one foot sticking out on the side I'd swear she and the ostrich were one. Nice legs lady.

Click on images to see larger at Flickr.





A break from photos in my collection to look at an ad from Kodak in 1937. Without Kodak there simply wouldn't be so many wonderful vernacular / found photos to collect.

Interesting advertisement, especially taken out of its time period. The whole thing comes off a little creepy because of the headline and the heavily browed gentleman on the right. Okay, even the copy under him comes off a little creepy. I dug a little deeper and discovered he was actually a very popular author named Irvin S. Cobb. It's unfortunate it looks like a mug shot.

To see even more Kodak advertisements check out this gentleman's Flickr site. He has posted hundreds of wonderful old ads. Normally I would have posted this at my ephemera site, but I think this adds to the enjoyment of vernacular photography. 

Click on the image to see it larger at Flickr.



HEY JOE take a walk on the wild side

Oh sure, NYC is wild. They know wild, but what about Pendleton, Oregon in the first part of the last century? Not a woman in site in this town, known for their fine woolens (proud owner of two Native American blankets myself). This is Main Street. Don't know the year because the back of the real photo postcard is damaged from being glued into an album. But take a gander at just the one side of the street. 

Oh we got trouble, right here we got trouble. It begins with bowling and pool, moves onto cigars, and then...ohhhhh no!! The Orpheum! Yes, all within an easy stroll from the building on the corner advertising "workingmen's clothing" we have every known vice that Professor Hill railed against! Across the street, more trouble. The St. George Bar. And where, pray tell, did the fairer sex shop? Perhaps the other end of Main Street near the really big houses. Having never been to Pendleton I imagine it has changed considerably. Sort of a shame. Looks like fun!



Oh sure, we're all familiar with Tennessee Williams's Cat On a Hot Tin Roof. Brilliant piece of work. But all artists have their low points. The times when they doubt their abilities. They start a piece and labor over it, sure there's something there if they can only draw it out. Sometimes they just have to walk away from it for awhile to get a new perspective. Is it possible that this very photo is the evidence Williams scholars have been searching for? Is it possible that what became Cat On a Hot Tin Roof started out as Cats on Cold Wet Logs? I leave it to you...and the scholars. I'm simply a vehicle for the evidence.


WHO WE WERE, and probably still are

My copy of Who We Were: A Snapshot History of America by Michael Williams and Richard Cahan (writers of award-winning photography books) and Nicholas Osborn (founder of Square America.com), arrived and it's wonderful. Really wonderful. A variety, nicely organized, that will enthrall, have you scratching your head, and most likely saying to someone, "You've got to see this!" I know I'll be spending a few hours with the book. The jacket photo alone makes me smile. Wonderful collection. You'll find a link to their book at Amazon in the left column.