Sunday, 11 May 2008

Novelty photos - Powered flight

Coastal towns were a big draw to photographers catering to the needs of the tourist trade, particularly in summer months. The profusion of studios and itinerant artists often resulted in some considerable competition, with many novelties and special offers being used to attract customers from their rivals. Rapid advances in the development of powered flight in the first decade of the 20th Century were popularised by the press and provided the inevitable spinoffs in the tourist photography trade. Postcard photographs were a format particularly suited to seaside destinations, as they were cheap and easy to produce, and appealed to those on holiday wanting to report back to those left at home.

This postcard portrait, unfortunately with no photographer's details, has a rudimentary "aeroplane in the clouds" board cut-out backdrop, in which a young man in flat cap poses, complete with cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. His "rabbit in the headlights" expression doesn't give him a very comfortable look. The design is an interesting variation on the older and far more common rowboat prop used by seaside photographers since the 1880s. The clothes which the young man is wearing, combined with the apparent early design of "flying machine," suggest to me a date of between 1905 and 1910.

The divided back of the design on the reverse only tells us that it was after about 1902, when British postcards first appeared with divided backs. The text, "This space, as well as the back, may now be used for communication, but for inland only," suggests a date of between 1902 and 1906, after one could send side-by-side message and address cards to other countries. [Source: Family Photographs 1860-1945, by Robert Pols, publ. 2002 by the Public Record Office, ISBN 1-903365-20-1] It measures 88 x 138 mm, which approximates to the "standard size" of post cards (89 x 140 mm) introduced in November 1899.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Join my blog network
on Facebook