Of Ghosts, Dandies and Little Sailors…

So. I promised some comments on the recently posted photo-postcards. I’ve chosen to have a closer look at some that particularly picked my curiosity. The first would be the photograph showing the phantomatic silhouette of a woman, pasted onto a black carton “frame” with a postcard-style verso:

The look of it – the silhouette fading into the white background, the black frame – made me ask myself whether this particular photo-postcard wasn’t made to commemorate a relative that had passed away. Of course, this might or might not be the case, but the sheer surrealism of the whole montage indicates a sort of artificiality, a little something put together after the right time of putting things together had already passed. I would certainly like to take this to someone who actually knows the first thing about old photos, to get a more informed opinion. It is an “udivided back” type photo-postcard, which started being produced in the early 1900’s, meaning the whole back was left blank with only the typed prompt: “the address to be written on this side”. So normally, for “undivided back” postcards, the message would be written on the front, over and under and surrounding the central image.

Now this, the image of the old man in the forest, as I like to think of it, is just plain odd. It’s a “divided back” type photo-postcard, which makes it of a slightly later date than the previous one. On the back, there is a violet ink stamp saying: “J. WILLIAMS, 5, Round Hill Crescent, BRIGHTON. PHOTOGRAPHER”. Which only goes to show that someone actually took the pains of commissioning a professional photographer to take a picture of this old man in this old forest. Why? Who was the old man? Why was he so important? And why in the forest? Was it his forest?

Apart from that, I have also followed my passion of looking up these ghostly addresses on Google Maps. Well, once more I have been successful, managing to track down the abode of this photographer from the past. Here’s a screen capture of the actual house at No 5 as shown on Google Street View:

The following one I just love. It’s quite as simple as that:

Another “undivided back” type photo-postcard. This young dandy simply fascinates me. I could stare at his photo for hours on end. Not only is he particularly attractive, but his elegant style, the way he confidently looks at the camera, half-smiling, his cultivated air – all of this just makes me wish I’d met him.

This one is another “divided back”. It was most obviously printed at the photographers’, as well, as their professional handle is subtly incoroporated into the postcard layout: “Starr & Rignall, Photographers, Cambridge & Ely.” At a quick Google search of their firm, interestingly enough, you can find them mentioned on quite a few vintage photography websites. They are mentioned here, here, here and here (where you can also find some more photos taken by their studio), as well as on some other webpages (well, just Google them and you’ll see). Also, by the range of different prices jotted in pencil on the back of the photo-postcard, you can tell it’s been sold and bought at least twice before though probably more times than that. Once more, it makes me sad to think how these old memories are thrust into the world…

Now, the appearance of the man in the photo is slightly awkward: he looks like he might have had an unusually large and long head, as well as unusually large hands. This made me wonder whether he could have been suffering of some sort of disorder, such as the Sotos syndrome or Macrocephaly. I guess this is where I should ask a doctor’s opinion.

These three girls (probably sisters?) seem distinctly unhappy. Maybe they found it especially tedious to be interrupted in their play only to pose in prim white frocks holding ridiculous flower baskets. Again, a “divided back” photo-postcard; it looks much more recent than most of the other photos. Ironically, it is imprinted on a photo sheet of poorer quality and the portrait is, itself, not as well preserved. Just goes to show that other things were already beginning to preside over quality, I suppose?

And this I’m just going to post again, because it’s so lovely that I even decided to make it the new emblem of my blog:

The small boy in the sailor suit, looking quite amused. And the way he holds his little lordly cane in imitation of those funny adults is simply precious. He’s the king of the castle!

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