Tuesday, 15 October 2013

It was his fault.

I was supposed to put this post on my blog yesterday but AGA was watching the movie 'Julie and Julia' and I got 'hypnotised' - before I knew it it was time to go to sleep and I was nowhere near finishing my post!

So anyway, there we were . . .
(In Paris)
Paying a visit to a local flea market, when I saw him sitting forlornly on a table: Dirty, uncared for, in a frame that had seen better days.  A sad reflection of his once glorious past.
I couldn't walk passed and not rescue him!  
So I did.  
He cost me 1 euro.
I was excited although AGA had his doubts.
I knew I could smarten him up and give him back his dignity.
Once we were back home I got to work.  I cleaned up the frame and repainted it in gold.  I replaced the backing board, cleaned the glass, and gently cleaned the image itself.  
I didn't think to take a 'before' photograph but here he is restored:

When he had his photograph taken, he clearly wanted to look his best.  He is wearing his dress uniform and his medals.  I guess this is his 'best side'.  
And he wrote a very nice 'with love' message at the bottom and signed it.  
He never thought that many years later he would up for sale at a Parisian Flea Market, for the bargain price of 1 euro!
Many thoughts enter my mind when I look at this photograph.
I wonder when it was taken.  
I wonder what the occasion was, the name of the sitter, and what his life was like.  His signature is a somewhat difficult to decipher, but his medals and sash seem to indicate that he was someone of no small importance in the French military establishment.  

I didn't realise it at the time but he was to become my first photographic refugee: the doyen of my future collection.

Number two arrived about a year later.  
We were in Sorrento and strolled inside a somewhat gloomy second hand shop (as one does) for a look around.  
This one lay on a table.  
Postcard sized. 
Covered in a thin film of dust.  
I looked at the chap in the photo: He was standing there with one hand behind his back, the other resting on a pot stand or some such thing.  I wondered what made him decide to have his photograph taken on that particular day... 
I presume that the photograph was taken in the Edwardian period and the subject appears to be wearing galoshes - an odd thing to wear when having your photo taken.  Perhaps he was out with friends and they decided, on the spur of the moment, to have some photos taken of themselves and made into postcards.

I told AGA I was going to buy it.  It cost 1 euro too!  My second photographic refugee had found a home:

After that I seemed to be seeing old photographs all over the place.  Some were inexpensive.  Some were very expensive!  I bought one or two and began to keep them in a box: The plan being to frame some and place others in an old album.

That was about three years ago and my collection is slowly growing.  My reasons for collecting are not 'just for the sake of it' but because I am very interested in social history and these pictures are windows in to a past that is long gone.  I also like to see if I can find out about the photographers themselves as they are the artists who 'pulled it all together' to create the finished product...

Please allow me to share some of my collection with you.  Perhaps you collect old photographs too!

This one was taken at the Martin Balg Studio.  Martin Balg was a famous 'Hof-Fotograf' (Court Photographer) in Berlin, during the late Victorian, and Edwardian period.  
The subject of this photograph has had her hair 'done' especially for the event:
The background is more natural than in the previous photograph.  One seems to be in an elegant drawing room.  There is some sort of 'arty' magazine laid out on an upholstered bench, and the subject holds  a slim bunch of what I take to be Narcissi.  She has a rather nice wrist watch on, as well as one of those old bar brooches on her dress. 
I wonder what thoughts passed through her mind as she stood there waiting to be 'snapped'?

On the back of the photograph is Herr Balg's advertisement:
He states that his artistic photographs are all taken using modern methods.  He is clearly making a lot of money and has a telephone number for clients to use when wanting to contact him!

The next photograph has a more sombre background.  It was taken at the Wertheim Department Store, situated on the Leipzigerstrasse in Berlin.  Wikipedia tells me that this Department store was the Berlin equivalent of Harrods in London and Galleries Lafayette in Paris.
I wonder who this young couple are.  I presume they are married as she is wearing what I take to be a wedding ring.  He is wearing a frock coat and has his hands behind his back: The pose of a successful man.  I wonder what he does for a living?
Her hands meanwhile are folded demurely in front but I see a determined face and an inquiring, somewhat imperious look.

This photograph of a little boy in boater hat and eton collar was taken at the Atelier Wesseman, at Bahnhofstrasse, Cassel (also known as Kassel).  They have made him wear a large polkadot bow, and have given him a hoop to pose with.  The background is set up to make it look as though he is standing on the terrace of some large country or town house.   One hand rest on his hip.  There is a resigned look about him as if he does not enjoy this 'garb' but is putting up with it while his photograph is taken:

Now to my mind, this lady is a school teacher, with her sensible hair, her glasses and her somewhat dour attire.  She has an interesting brooch on her blouse, which looks to be in the shape of two conker (horse-chestnut) cases.  She had her photograph taken at the studio situated in the Oberpollinger Department Store (opened 1905) in Munich:

Meanwhile, when this young chap decided to have his photo taken, he chose the 'power' look: arms folded defiantly and legs crossed. 
He gazes at us with a somewhat superior air:

The artist of choice was the Bavarian Court Photographer, Franz Xaver Limbrunner, who had a studio in the town of Straubing.  I do like his advertisement on the back of the photograph: 

Now this chap is wearing his gloves, cap, outdoor coat, pinz nez glasses and a very severe look... 

He decided to have his photograph taken with his stick in his hand as if he were just about to go out.  His legs are crossed and there is an air of impatience about him. It is as if he is saying 'get on with it - I haven't got all day!'  
N. Raschkow Jr. took the photo.  You could find him on the 1st floor of No. 4, Ohlauerstrasse, Breslau (now Wroclav, in Poland). I think Herr Raschkow's charges are fairly pricey as he states that he is Court Photographer to the Dukes of Saxe-Meiningen, the Grand Dukes of Hesse, Prince Georg of Prussia, and Princess Louise of Prussia as well!

This is Max de Pausinger in the year 1877.  I don't think that he is very old in this photo and I am wondering if he is related to Franz Xaver and Clemens von Pausinger - two fairly well known artists of the period.  His pins-nez give him a scholarly air and he has an interesting hairstyle. He has had his photograph taken while wearing his overcoat:
The photographer was taken by J. Albert of Munich who states that he won an honourary diploma at the Vienna World Exhibition of 1873. He proclaims that he too is a Court Photographer:  to the Courts of Bavaria and of 'Imperial Russia'.

The next subject also decided to wear his overcoat when having his photograph taken.  
It is interesting to see the clothes people wore when deciding to have their photo taken: The clothes they thought would show them off to their best advantage.  When this man (I can't read his name) made that choice he decided upon his overcoat with the thick fur collar.  His very curly hair gives him a gipsy-ish air...
I think he may also have a faint moustache but I am not sure.  Did he fancy himself as a bit of a ladies' man?  Residing in Leipzig, he chose the photographers Eulenstein.  They are to be found at the corner of Tauchaer Strasse 29, opposite the Clubhouse. They have a nice advertisement on the back of the photo too:

To date, most of the photographs I have collected are German, however I do have lots of others, including the next one, which is among my favourites.  
It was taken by the famous photographer, Henri Claudet (1829-1880) of 107 Regent Street, London.  The subject is posed with one finger touching her cheek.  In her other hand she holds a flower.  The scalloped sleeves of her dress are fab and give it a somewhat medieval flavour.  The whole effect is very theatrical and I wonder what the rest of her dress was like. 

We have be moving slowly back in time and here we are in the 1860s:
Anna (I can't read the rest of her name - perhaps you can) had her photograph taken by J. Ebehardt in Mergentheim, a famous spa town in Baden-Wurttemburg.  She stands rather stiff and formal, with one hand on a table containing a vase of flowers.  Perhaps this was her very first time having a photograph taken.  I do like the fact that someone has coloured in the flowers she holds in her hand: 

My final example also comes from the 1860s.  It was taken in Celle (northern Germany) by a photographer named E. Glier.  The subject (an older woman) is seated in an ornate chair and looks up inquiringly, a closed book in her lap.  She wears a bonnet typical of the period and I think that her dress is tafetta. I wonder what the book was:

I enjoy collecting old photographs - they provide a small window into the lives of people who lived long ago, captured in a moment.

I hope that you enjoyed this post!


  1. Hello Kirk, You have exactly shown us the lure of old photographs, and how we are drawn into their stories. I particularly like the "schoolteacher". Although primly dressed and coiffed, she has enough personality to wear that odd piece of jewelry, and she looks kindly and amused. Of the people you show here, she is the one I would most like to have a conversation with.

    1. Thank you Jim,
      I agree with you about that photograph. Photograph hunting is rather like being on one's own at a huge party. I look around to see who might be interesting to have a conversation with, and like you, when I saw that photo I thought that she had a kind look about her, and would be fun to know. The seemingly unconventional brooch is intriguing too.

  2. Our family has boxes of old photographs, several of them in postcard form. Many of the sitters are unknown to us but presumably family members. Two photographs of handsome young men are identified as the same person yet I think not. The person in question was a fine man who died tragically but not before founding our family line. I would like to display his picture but mystery and speculation is all I have to hand.

    1. Dear Susan,
      We have photographs like that. When we were children we would ask my father (they are from his side of the family) who photographs were of and sometimes he hadn't any idea! I would still display such photographs. They are a part of the complex histories of our families, even if we aren't sure of the details, or even the name of the sitter.

  3. What a beautiful and special collection, Kirk! I have enjoyed this post. What I love most: everyone getting their hair done....getting all gussied up.....and taking pride in their appearance. We live in such a casual and dressed-down society now. Nice to enjoy these oldies but goodies.

    1. That is what draws me to these photographs as well, Loi. Everyone getting 'done up' for the occasion. These are photos to be displayed so one wanted to look one's best - and sometimes, what a person thought was 'their best' is as interesting as the photograph itself!
      I hope you are having a nice week,

  4. What a fascinating collection! Thanks for sharing. You know, I often see old photos while I'm out and about but I never thought about really looking at them and wondering about the story behind the image. Might have to keep my eyes open for some from now on. Love those thanks again for posting them.

    1. Thanks 1st Man,
      I think you should start collecting. It is fun and very informative. It also teaches one to observe details. When I look at a photograph I see all sorts of things that I would never notice in a casual 'glance'. Sometimes the discoveries are quite intriguing!

  5. Dear Kirk, I love this post. We have old family photos like that. My husband's family come from Austria, my family from Russia. As you say, they are a wonderful window into social history, and I like the way you approach it by asking close observations and wondering about what things might mean. I haven't visited your blog for a while, missed you.

    1. Dear Sue,
      Thank you for your kind comments. We too have a fair few old photographs at home. They mean so much more because of course they are a tangible link with my own past. I find collecting studio portraits to be fun as well as informative. I think it might be fun to write short stories based upon the photographs too - perhaps I'll do that one day.

  6. I am glad you were able to rescue these photographs. I do like that photo of the woman holding the flower. She seems like she's having a bit of fun with the process.

    1. Thank you MW,
      Collecting old photographs is a bit like having an orphanage! One takes in all sorts of waifs and strays.
      Recently I started trying to look for photographs of old interiors as well.

  7. Wow Kirk. What a wonderful collection! It's a very nice way of preserve the history, not only famous people make the history. A great idea!


    1. Thank you Marina, it is fun to collect old photographs!

  8. Dear Kirk,
    a fabulous venture you've taken on. What you always notice in these studied photographs, as against the contemporary trend to snap whoever whatever however, is an element of humanity within the formal, composed setting. Much dignity. Do we have dignity any more, I wonder?

    1. An interesting point, Faisal. Dignity. Even though the term 'human dignity' is bandied about, I am not sure that many people really know what that means. Has its true meaning been lost in this age of reality TV and Facebook?

  9. Good morning Kirk! WHAT GREAT FINDS! Now, I happen to be very fortunate in that I have TONS of old photos as such, of my own family! I especially love one of a handsome red-headed man with a fabulous mustache. I have kept this photo forever on my dresser, and I seem to remember my mother speaking fondly of this man. I JUST FOUND OUT HE IS MY GREAT GRANDFATHER....a redhead! I also found a photo of my grandfather being held in the arms of another distinguished looking man with a uniform and many medals. This man is of the BOURBON family, and is an uncle. So photos do tell untold stories.....


    1. Dear Anita,
      How interesting! If you are referring to THE Bourbon family then we are very distantly related. Do you display your family photographs? We have old family photographs but they are kept in an album so that the light doesn't fade them. We had copies made for display purposes.
      I am always on the look out for interesting studio photos so my collection is always growing and always changes in emphasis
      Bye for now and I hope you are having a nice week

  10. Dear Kirk,

    You have a wonderful collection of photos! I also collect photographs (I hope you've been able to visit my side bar collection of daguerreotypes), and I also look at these images and project what life might have been like, and wonder about people's individual circumstances. Incidentally, the fellow in the second photograph is wearing jodhpurs, a legging that fit over street shoes. Just one more thing that's lost to the past.

    1. Dear Mark,
      Thank you for your comments. I had a look at your daguerreotype collection. I saw a large collection of Daguerreotypes for sale at an auction house in Melbourne last time we were there. They were of American Civil War Soldiers and formed part of a Civil War Collection once owned by a Melbourne businessman. I think that old photographs make a wonderful collection. To me they are nice as collecting portrait miniatures.
      Bye for now

      It is interesting that people in America would call those things jodhpurs. In England and Australia jodhpurs are trousers that one wears when riding a horse. We sometimes use the same words but they have different meanings depending on where we come from - I like that about the English speaking world!

    2. Hi again, Kirk,

      I checked several dictionaries just to be sure I wasn't completely off the mark, and both definitions are accepted, though I would be more correct were I to say "jodhpur boots."

    3. That's interesting Mark. I think that we both need pairs of jodhpur boots in our wardrobe!

  11. I love looking at old photos and most of all I like the faces of the people who lived long before us. Interesting collection, Kirk!

    1. Me too Nadezda.
      I"m glad that you liked my collection.
      I hope you are having a nice week!
      Bye for now