By now we've all tired of the well worn phrase "Instant Ancestors" that is used by antique dealers to sell their photographic wares. Yawn! As if you suddenly need to replace a branch from your broken family tree-- Quick, snag some dead people's pics!
But if you're a photo buff you know to quickly flip through boxes of old Cabinet Cards or CDVs, searching for your personal image-collectible-kink.
Some collect for the clothing worn, or the jewelry they are wearing (especially cameos).. and for men, pocketwatch chains), or even the style of their hair.
Remember getting your photo taken 100 years ago was a big deal and you wanted to look good... which is why most "sitters" are decked out in their Sunday best and then forced to stand completely still for a minute... or two... which is no small feat.
Often children were placed against a neck-brace device to stop them from squirming. Now and again you can find some blurry image of some kid who just couldn't sit/stand still. Love it!
This is also why photographs of cats and dogs are so prized... as "sit" and "stay" came in handy at the Photographer's studio. OK, not so much with cats, hence they are even more prized.
But that IS NOT what I am showing you today. No, next time you're at a vintage market or some antique store, flip these photos over and see what, if anything, is printed on the reverse... or "reverso."
Suddenly history slaps you in the face. Like looking at the label or ingredients at Whole Foods, checking for fat, calories, sodium, insect parts-- whatever-- examing the backsides of these images is like opening a world that was lost.
Sometimes you may find an illustration of the photographer's studio complete with props and wonderment; other times you may stumble upon odd logos and artwork that represented the artist's best advertisement, short of his or her work. And yes, if you're lucky, you may find early female photographers; rarities, but a long-forgotten profession for a woman of the 19th century. Chicago had a very prominent female photographer with a thriving downtown studio.
Should you be into architecture, featured here is an example of the exterior of a Photographer's Studio-- the style of the building, the presentation... heck, the address! What stands there now?
No, these are the things you will not see in a book, but only in the flip of your wrist. Quite simply you have to know it's there and where to look for it. It's not rocket science, it's an vintage scavenger hunt.
Like so much of the Wonderful Vintage World, discovery comes through the examination of the simple item, revealing itself to you... the antique detective. So next time, slow down and stop to smell the history of it all. You may be surprised at what you find.
D.A. Copyright W.D.M.S. 2011