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The Hand in the Pocket

Washington, D.C., circa 1911. “National Photo Co. postcard shipment.” A very young-looking Herbert French on the left with his associate “Artie” Leonard at their H Street studio. 8×10 glass negative.

Daily life, as recorded on 8×10 glass negatives fromShorpy Historical Photo Archive :: The Young Entrepreneurs: 1911, is often seen in more detail than our faux-vintage Instagram age.

How Many Photos Will be Taken in 2022?    Around the world, people are taking more photos, with the global photo-taking total to reach an estimated 1.5 trillion photos in 2022, according to Rise Above Research, a consulting firm that provides market research for the digital imaging industry. 2022’s total number of photos taken equates to about 188 pictures per year for every man, woman, and child in the world, considering a global population of 7.95 billion in 2021.

One of the persistent pleasures in very old photographs is that they hold a lot of detail if you 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.

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:

It’s by way of this kind of detail that these sections of times lost beyond recall hold their fascination. That moment 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 a mark.

Gerard Van der Leun // 1692 Mangrove Ave Apt: 379
Chico, CA 95926

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sam L. April 18, 2019, 11:29 AM

    Not gangsters, then?? I…am disappoint!

  • rabbit tobacco April 18, 2019, 1:55 PM

    Hand in the pocket, I thought this was about lawyers:)

  • ghostsniper April 18, 2019, 2:59 PM

    10 photos a day? On average? Jayziss. These people need to be put to meaningful work for about 16 hours a day, for the first time in their worthless lives.

    Both pix are left hand shots. The guy on the right is jiggling change in his pocket – bored.
    The hammer dood is bored too, but ready for whatever. Nobody using a hammer for legitimate purpose does so while attired in a suit, on the skreet, unless he’s a sales dik getting ready to rip up them packing crates and get that shit up on the shelves. Maybe that’s why he’s holding it backwards. Most likely he is twirling it in his hand, again boredom, and the pik was snapped while it was in the backward position. The sign in the window says National Photo Company, ‘splains why they’re standing there looking at the photog, and why is that bike mounted on that post? (made ya look ya durty crook…..)

  • Larry Geiger April 18, 2019, 3:15 PM

    The man with the suit and tie and hammer is nailing shut shipping crates or opening shipping crates. I’m assuming that they are full of supplies for or from the National Photo Company.

  • SLM April 18, 2019, 4:05 PM

    I remember looking at the pictures in LIFE and LOOK magazines and discovering details that gave further depth to the subject.

  • Larry Geiger April 18, 2019, 5:22 PM

    They are uncrating something. The contents are around the man with his hand in his pocket. And, yes, in those days a man in a suit would be doing this kind of work on the sidewalk in front of his business in a suit and tie.

  • Terry April 18, 2019, 5:58 PM

    My father taught us boys at an early age that you do not stand around or walk with your hand in a pocket. Unless one was withdrawing a pocket knife or such.

    • Gordon Scott August 14, 2022, 10:32 AM

      It was still the rule in the military, at least until the mid 1980s when I departed. I know there was a rule about holding umbrellas. I remember reading about some colonel being very uncomfortable holding one over LBJ as he gave a speech. But it was sorta okay to hold one over someone else. That rule was gone by the time I was in. Of course, not in a formation, but just walking by yourself with an umbrella was okay, so long as the color was dark blue or black.

  • Tom Hyland April 18, 2019, 6:15 PM

    Ghost, are referring to the tiny little bicycle on the right, mounted on a post? Those are the kind ridden by poodles in the circus.

  • Ulysses Toole April 18, 2019, 7:46 PM

    I find myself watching pron for the same reason. What’s in the background. Is this a motel, or rented home, or studio decorations? Suitcase of clothes on the floor, water bottle on the washer/dryer, you know stuff that sticks out.

    • Steve (retired/recovering lawyer) August 14, 2022, 3:45 PM

      Sure. Cough-cough.

  • AesopFan April 18, 2019, 8:26 PM

    The bicycle is not mounted on the post; it is leaning up against what looks like a storage box in the background, against the fence in the alley.
    Of the trillions of pictures taken this year, tens of thousands were of the Notre Dame fire.
    As I looked at some of them on-line, I marvelled at the composition and photographical mastery of many of them, on a par with the old Saturday Evening Post and Look and Life magazines, but rendered to us in minutes rather than months.

  • Anonymous April 19, 2019, 2:09 AM

    Associate “Artie” on the right has his hand in his pocket because his hammer is lying on the sidewalk to his left/your right.

    The neighborhood was changing; if you drill down a little farther in the comments you’ll find “the office” from 1917 with considerable architectural and business changes. Pull up the address on Google Maps, and it’s all gone now, new and improved, so to speak.


  • The Usual Suspect April 19, 2019, 8:07 AM

    It’s almost as if they are moving from one location to another, the address on the crate says “From” National ??????? (likely National Photo Co.) but the crates have been delivered to a building with the same name on the windows. They are opening the crate(s) not closing them, they have opened the one lying on it’s side as the edge board is splintered and lying of the ground the smaller boxes have been removed and stacked on the other boxes and porch. The box behind the man on the right is also open and again boards with nails in them are on the ground. It also probably autumn, no leaves on the tree. Hand in the pocket signifies nothing special to me. BTW, I do not have a mobile phone and do not take 10 pictures per day. The hammer is amazing in itself, it’s well over one hundred years old and the same hammer is still sold today, timeless design.

  • Ray Van Dune April 19, 2019, 10:22 AM

    Does anyone know what the many small boxes contain? If it was a shoe store, I could guess, but…

  • ghostsniper April 19, 2019, 11:18 AM

    “Does anyone know what the many small boxes contain?”
    Yes. A very small percentage of the cellphone pix that were taken the day before.

    “…tiny little bicycle on the right, mounted on a post?”
    Right. Comparing to the closest dood, I’d say 16″ wheels. Probably about the right size for standard sized trained poodles, like the ones you seen on the Ed Sullivan Show that were riding the bikes on that cable suspended about 8′ above the stage floor. When 2 of them popped wheelstands at the same time going in opposite directions everyone in the living room lost it.

    By today’s standards that railing would be in violation of multiple codes and where the hell is that ada ramp?

  • Tom Hyland April 21, 2019, 5:51 AM

    AesopFan… that’s a joke son… a joke. Ghost inferred the bicycle was mounted on a post and then I endorsed the illusion. Thanks for explaining it to all. Contact my attorney.


  • Rich April 22, 2019, 11:00 AM

    The shipping crates contain boxes of photo postcards. A postcard was put on the end of each box showing the contents. One of the crates is labeled with “Keep Dry” because any water would have ruined everything.

    The tree has no leaves and there are no leaves on the ground. If the tree isn’t dead, then this photo might have been taken in the fall or winter, maybe very early spring. However, there are several open windows and doors indicating moderate to warm temperatures. Also, since there are no shadows, it must have been cloudy or overcast.

  • jwm August 14, 2022, 9:11 AM

    Crates marked C.O.D.
    Collect On Delivery.
    Now there’s a blast from the past.


    • ghostsniper August 14, 2022, 1:10 PM

      Blast from the past – when honesty was still relevant.

      Went to the gas station in Morgantown yesterday and neither of my 2 debit cards worked at the pump, said, “See Clerk”. Fuck. Now I gotta walk my ass inside. They always worked before.

      The place is run by middle eastern doods, yeah, the wrap around head thing and all that. Mild mannered doods. Couldn’t understand what I was saying, kept asking me how much gas did I want. I wanted to fill up so there was no way to know how much. Conversation kept circling like that.

      Finally I told the dood to just hold my card, turn on the pump, then I’ll come back in to pay. They understood that. I pumped ($48.00) then I went in and paid with the debit card he was holding. Done.

      Afterward I was thinking, I get these credit card solicitations in the mail all the time that have a fake plastic card in it. I throw em in the shitcan. I could have given the dood a fake card, pumped the gas, then hauled ass. Just sayin’….

      • Hyland August 15, 2022, 8:13 AM

        I have never paid for gasoline, groceries, hardware… anything…. with plastic. The only time I use it is if I’m making a purchase on eBay. I will never buy anything from Amazon. FJB… and the other JB, too. I walk into the store every time, hand over maybe $40 or $35, just enough to get me out of there and on my way. I’ve had conversations with others at cash registers, holding up the line because their plastic had been rejected, and I tell everyone within hearing distance to use cash. Plastic is not convenient, it is a conspiracy to remove cash forever from our lives. It is communism perfected. I go on and on and nobody disagrees.

        • Carlos the Jackal August 17, 2022, 5:26 AM

          I do not disagree either.
          How many pitfalls there are that begin with “For your convenience”?
          It really means “for our vast profits”.

  • OldFert August 14, 2022, 2:05 PM

    Stencil on box near guy on our right says

    Still around, it looks like maybe the small boxes are rolls of photograph paper.
    Sabin Robbins is a paper company, still around:

    From the link:
    “Sabin Robbins isn’t necessarily glossy-eyed, but it does keep its eye on plenty of glossy paper. The company distributes sheets and rolls of paper, including glossy- and matte-coated, envelope stock, form bond, and uncoated paper for books, covers, and reply cards…”

  • KCK August 14, 2022, 2:41 PM

    Clearly what the gentleman has in his trouser pocket are the missing launch codes.

  • Denny August 14, 2022, 4:29 PM

    Screw the hand in pocket photo, Merrick just decided he wants to
    be a girl after the Melania Trump haul.


    • ghostsniper August 14, 2022, 6:44 PM

      His anus will be a girl whether he wants it to or not if he goes to prison like he should.
      I’d pay good money to see the vid of him violently getting up off that cherry to a big ol’ sawbuck.

    • KCK August 14, 2022, 9:45 PM


  • pbird August 16, 2022, 7:03 AM

    The Shorpy collection is precious unto me.