December 17, 2012

The Hand in the Pocket

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Washington, D.C., circa 1911. "National Photo Co. post card shipment." A very young-looking Herbert French on the left with his associate "Artie" Leonard at their H Street studio. 8x10 glass negative.

Daily life, as recorded on 8x10 glass negatives fromShorpy Historical Photo Archive :: The Young Entrepreneurs: 1911, is often seen in more detail than our faux-vintage Instagram age.

One of the persistant pleasures in very old photographs is that they hold a lot of detail if you but care to look; details that tell you the things behind these images lived. I went into this -- in some detail -- myself in The Summer of Our Content. I notice it again here in one telling detail from the photo cited above from Shorpy. Only this time it is a detail in the hands of the men pictured. With the man on the left, his left hand casually grasps a claw hammer as he strikes the casual pose of a man taking a brief portrait break.

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This is not at all that remarkable. Hands holding tools are common in all photography of the men from a time when men actively built the nation. But if we look closely at the man on the right we can see the small confirmation of this lost moment in time in Washington DC over a century past. We see this:

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It's by way of this kind of detail that these sections of times lost beyond recall hold their fascination. That momnt when time had a stop and we can see down into the marrow of things; into the weight and the heft of the fabric of trousers stretched over the knuckles of a now long dead hand. For all the trillions of images that we capture now, we won't leave that much of mark.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at December 17, 2012 11:32 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Look at the street and curb. That curb has been rubbed up against many times. Maybe with old wagon wheels. Discarded tobacco chaw and whats looks like a Wrigley's gum wrapper in the street.

Posted by: Judah at December 17, 2012 1:30 PM

We leave to the future millions of "duck-face" women and we will be judged.

Posted by: David McKinnis at December 17, 2012 4:26 PM