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Documentary Photography

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Freedom of Jones

 

That experiment of American Democracy, culminating in our annual celebration today of the Fourth of July holiday, has survived 241 times since that fateful Philadelphia signing, in 1776, of a remarkable document giving notice to the larger world our Declaration of Independence and legal right to self-rule, with benefits.

 

asbury-park-boardwalk-sceneDetail: "Asbury Park Boardwalk": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1938-1945 black and white film negative: A woman who may have become the photographer's second wife, Edith, sits with a white hat on her lap on a bench at center in this bustling summer boardwalk scene taken at the Fourth Ave. entrance. The 18-hole Asbury Park Obstacle Golf course can be seen directly behind the bench at center and at left. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

 

Freedom of expression, and with it speech as it relates to the right of picking up a camera and chronicling daily life in one own’s creative bent without fear or favor are American freedoms held dearly by this website. I long hope our presently divided country can see the worth and value of all her citizens understanding each other and getting along for the betterment of the whole.

 

 

2-military-paradeDetail: "Fifth Avenue Military Parade": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1938-1945 black and white film negative: Possibly taken before World War II, a little girl at far right holds an American flag as US infantry troops march up Fifth Ave. in New York City. The location of the photograph is W. 27th Street. The former La Primadora Havana Cigar shop can be seen at center at 234 Fifth Ave. and a Horn & Hardart automat is in the lower floor retail area next door at 236 Fifth Ave. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

Not Lost Forever: the work of Laural J. Jones


With the blessing of a good friend who owns this documentary work in the form of developed 35mm black & white film negatives, and dating more than 20 years past the offerings of the more typical pictorialist body of work featured on PhotoSeed, I’m taking advantage of America’s national holiday to introduce to the world a gentleman who knew a thing or two about self-expressionistic ideals enshrined in our Constitution, the work of American amateur photographer Laural J.(ohn) Jones. (1897-1980)

 

3-rms-queen-elizabethDetail: "RMS Queen Elizabeth in New York Harbor": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1940-1945 black and white film negative: Although it is unknown when this photograph was taken, onlookers witness the famed 85,000 ton RMS Queen Elizabeth ocean liner in this photo. She initially docked on March 7, 1940 at Pier 90 in quarantine anchorage off Staten Island following a secret voyage to the US from Greenock, Scotland in order to evade German bombers. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

Reminiscent in some ways to the much larger body of unknown photographs done by Chicago nanny Vivian Maier (1926-2009) after her life’s work was rescued from a storage locker in 2007, Jones work by contrast and fate was preserved in only two shoe boxes. Residing for more than five years in a Florida antique store before being discovered and saved, spooled negatives by Laural Jones along with an assortment of very small printed photographs are believed to have been placed there from an estate sale originating from the photographer’s second wife Edith, who had lived with Laural in the community of Harbour Oaks, south of Daytona Beach.  

 

 

4-laural-j-jones-triptch"Self-Portraits of Laural J. Jones: 1897-1980": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scans taken from ca. 1938-1953: black and white film negatives: The photographer is seen here in a series of self portraits with the center view taken at his office in New York City, where he was employed as the secretary of purchasing for Bell Bakeries, Inc. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

Since all that remains are negatives, and with sparse details of his life slowly emerging from US Census and other web resources and records only recently, the Michigan-born Jones is known to have owned the then-new Leica camera sometime around 1938, around the time he is believed to have commenced his early interest in photography. In one surviving photograph stamped 1942 that is an obvious self-portrait, the photographer is nattily dressed and smoking a pipe while he inspects a copy of Popular Photography magazine.

 

 

5-times-square-new-years-eDetail: "1938: Times Square at Night": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scans taken from ca. 1938 black and white film negative: In this view showing Times Square at night in New York City taken between Christmas and New Year's Eve 1938, a large banner for the year 1939 hangs above the entrance to the Hotel Astor at far left which exclaims those to Celebrate New year's Eve in their Grand Ball Room and Grill. A large lighted Christmas tree is in center background while at far right, the Loew's Criterion marquee advertises in glowing lights the American movie western "Ride a Crooked Mile" starring Akim Tamiroff and Frances Farmer. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

Earlier, on Thanksgiving day in 1918, he was first married to the former Ruby A. Armour, (1899-1977) and is listed in a newspaper wedding announcement from the time as being the assistant manager of the Grand Leader Department Store in Battle Creek, with Ruby working there as a clerk. The year of the marriage, the future photographer is described as tall and slender with blue eyes on his World War I draft card, although it appears he was never called up. The couple lived with Laural’s father Mayver Jones, a carpenter for the Advance-Rumely Co., and mother Cora at their home at 129 Somerset Ave. in Battle Creek.

 

An interesting newspaper account from 1933 showed Laural shared a passion for carpentry like his father, and was also skilled in design. That year he spent several months constructing and designing a custom travel trailer coach in his father’s Someset Ave. carpentry shop meant to “conform with the new stream-line automobiles”. It was: “20 feet in length, maroon color with aluminum top. The interior is divided into two compartments, and is finished throughout in paneled veneer, walnut finish. The forward compartment is furnished with built-in library table, Pullman couch upholstered in brown Spanish leather with chairs to match, and folding typewriter desk, and radio, with an oval rug as floor covering.” The couple also seemed to have the luxery of time and money: they hit the road late that Fall pulling the new coach in route to St. Petersburg, FL, where they spent the Winter.

 

In 1935, according to his 1980 obituary, Laural moved to New York City from Michigan in order to serve as secretary in charge of purchasing for Bell Bakeries Inc., a large commercial concern with factories throughout the eastern seaboard and beyond. But it’s not clear if Laural’s wife Ruby accompanied him on the new adventure. That’s because 11 years later, the Battle Creek Enquirer newspaper for June 4, 1946 lists the couple receiving a divorce before Battle Creek circuit court Judge Blaine W. Hatch the day before.

 

 

6-chock-full-o-nuts-at-nigDetail: "Chock Full o' Nuts at Night": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1938-1945 black and white film negative: This nighttime view believed to have been taken in Brooklyn Heights shows the popular post-Depression coffee shop with the large China Palace restaurant behind it. The coffee brand still marketed today featured shops selling a cup of coffee and sandwich for only a nickel. (at the time, there were 18 shops around New York) A police officer looks on at foreground left while a gentleman wearing his hat can be seen seated along a row of stools through the open doorway of the establishment at center. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

7-union-strike-rally-at-niDetail: "Union Rally at Night": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1938-1945 black and white film negative: Holding flares and American flags, a nighttime rally of custodians employed by New York City custodians, members of School & Library Employees Local Union 74, takes place at an unknown New York City location. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

8-luna-park-coney-islandDetail: "Entrance to Luna Park, Coney Island at Night": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1938-1945 black and white film negative: Luna Park was an amusement park in Coney Island, Brooklyn, in New York City that first opened in 1903 and was destroyed by fire in 1944. It finally closed in 1946 after a second fire. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

Taking advantage of city life, while using the Leica 35mm rangefinder to record night scenes a speciality, Laural Jones documented a fascinating and important record of Manhattan and the outer boroughs from the late 1930’s and into the 1940’s, with some of the larger events unfolding before his camera spanning the later years of the American Depression and leading through to the re-ordering of a new world order brought on by World War II. Sadly, the story of preservation as it relates to someones creative and personal artistic endeavors is one consistent with people’s indifference to memories and Photography’s evolving history. But survivors like Laural Jones do show up, thankfully, and in these nine digital offerings, I think you will find plenty to be fascinated with and hopefully inspired by.

 

David Spencer-

 

 

9-kissingDetail: "Picnic Kiss": Laural J. Jones, American: 2004 digital scan taken from ca. 1938-1945 black and white film negative. Laying on a blanket shirtless, and with a picnic hamper and two glasses balancing on top at left, the photographer Laural Jones kisses a woman that may be his future spouse Edith at an unknown location. This woman appears in many surviving negatives taken by the photographer, including one of her on the Asbury Park boardwalk at the top of this post. Courtesy: Private Florida Collection

 

 

 

Support our Vision, Validate our Passion

 

Like what you see on PhotoSeed? Have you ever thought of collecting vintage photographs? It might seem strange for some in our modern age of digital connoisseurship, where family photo albums now reside, along with everything else, on your smartphones. But actual physical photographs, unlike their digital brothers and sisters, do actually stand the test of time. You can even hang them on your wall!

 

screengrabScreengrab of the homepage for the PhotoSeed Gallery website hosted by Shopify e-commerce online platform: March, 2017

 

 

If you’ve arrived here by chance, or are a long-time visitor, you might have thought that some of these digital photographs are quite beautiful. Wouldn’t it be nice to…perhaps, acquire an original for yourself, a friend or loved one?  Well today is your lucky day.  After nearly two decades of collecting, I’m going in a new direction and launching PhotoSeed Gallery. The new venture is designed to give anyone in the world (we ship internationally) the opportunity to purchase vintage photographic works of art (never reproductions) created from roughly 1885-1920. Heck, you don’t even need to leave home to do it. A desktop computer will give you the best feel and display for the site, but if you insist, that aforementioned smartphone will also do the trick nicely from anywhere.

 

 

playing-at-shops-edgar-leeDetail: Playing at Shops: Edgar G. Lee, English: (1860-1915) vintage exhibition lantern slide ca. 1895-1905: 8.2 x 8.2 cm. A portrait photographer by trade, Englishman Edgar Lee was an active exhibitor in the Royal Photographic Society Salons from 1890-1903. The body of work he is best remembered for however is documentary, with 300 of his lantern slides held in the Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives chronicling the residents, mostly poor, of the Quayside area of Newcastle upon Tyne. PhotoSeed owns several examples of Lee's work, including this street view showing a group of little girls- with two clad in white aprons at front and left- pretending to sell what appears to be an assortment of rocks or broken tiles arranged on a table made from slate and rocks. Interestingly, a postcard of this image: "Playing at Shops: The Slums, Sandgate" was later published by his Newcastle firm Thompson and Lee, the work possibly part of his earlier documentary involvement with investigations conducted by the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws and Relief of Distress in England held from 1905-09. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

Many websites solicit funding via one of those “donate here” buttons for their upkeep and survival. I can appreciate that, but somehow, in my humble estimation, it is so much better to support your love of photography by receiving something in return: in this case, tangible and real photographs. Going forward, gallery sales will be vital and necessary for maintaining PhotoSeed’s core mission of bringing attention to the often obscure and forgotten practitioners from photography’s past, as well as the critical and time-consuming scholarship their work demands in giving it the proper due it deserves for the larger historical record. And no worries, I’m a collector myself at heart, so our intent will always be the continual addition of rare and surprising examples to this record in the coming years.

 

Thanks for stopping by, and please consider a purchase to support our vision and validate our passion.

 

 -David Spencer          PhotoSeed Archive & Gallery  owner and curator  March, 2017

 

 

Old Nasty Women

 

The historical photographic record doesn’t flinch when it comes to the importance of women, and I present herewith a short gallery as evidence, many of these photographs taken by women themselves. Mother Earth was surely proud of those millions who turned out in rallies all over the United States and across the World in support of the fairer sex on Saturday. And in Washington, D.C., it was a pointed, diverse, and joyous message presenting the true story of America heard loud and clear countering the utterances of the keynote speaker the day before.

 

1-mexcan-family-living-near-sweetwater-texasA Message to Washington: "Sweet-faced Little Mother" : Detail: Anonymous American Photographer: 1911: Cyanotype postcard mailed to Washington D.C. from Sweetwater Texas showing a proud Mexican family in front of their Texas & Pacific Railroad section house. 7.4 x 9.9 cm | 8.7 x 13.9 cm: Besides being built with the hard labor of Mexican and other nationalities in the later 19th Century, continued maintenance of American railroads like the "T & P" in places like Texas in the early 20th was often performed by them, with the rail line providing section houses along the track for temporary quarters to live in. Writing to a Mrs. Burnside on the card's verso, the following appears in neat script: "This man came up and asked me to come and take a picture of his baby, "just borned"-When I got there, the whole family wanted to be taken-so here they are the sweet-faced little mother and the baby, not quite 2 weeks old. They are such a happy-hearted class of people." From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

 

2-song-of-the-meadow-lark-"The Song of the Meadow Lark": Mathilde Weil: American: (1872-1942) ca. 1900: Platinum print mounted on board signed in red with Weil cipher at lower right: 18.4 x 16.0 cm | 19.1 x 16.5 cm: black-painted wood frame: 28.4 x 25.7 cm: In December, 1899, critic Francis J. Ziegler, writing in Brush and Pencil for a review of the Philadelphia Photographic Salon, said of this photograph: "Among Philadelphia's artist photographers one of the most prominent is Miss Mathilde Weil, and her contributions to this exhibition are full of artistic excellence. Her "Song of the Meadow-Lark" has a suggestion of the Orient about it, notwithstanding the fact that the landscape is an American field and the two girls who have stopped in their reaping have American faces. This effect, I think, is due to the long braids of hair which hang down the front of one damsel's bodice, and the white jacket worn by her companion, the trimming of which repeats the same lines in artistic harmony." (p. 113) From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

3-doris-ulmann-woman-with-plow-from-roll-jordan-roll-1933"Woman Behind Plow": Doris Ulmann, American: (1882-1934): 1933: hand-pulled photogravure: Plate 39 from the deluxe volume Roll Jordan Roll: New York: Robert O. Ballou: (text by Julia Peterkin) 21.2 x 16.3 | 28.4 x 20.5 cm: A landmark photographic volume of the 20th Century featuring ethnographic studies and portraits, this volume features 90 full-page copperplate gravures done in the Pictorial manner. Writing for the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Texas, author Steve Watson describes the volume in part: "The book focuses on the lives of former slaves and their descendants on a plantation in the Gullah coastal region of South Carolina. Peterkin, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Scarlet Sister Mary (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1928), was born in South Carolina and raised by a black nursemaid who taught her the Gullah dialect. She married the heir to Lang Syne, a 2,000-acre cotton plantation, which became the setting for Roll, Jordan, Roll. Ulmann began photographing there in 1929." From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

4-blind-by-paul-strand-cam"Photograph-New York": Paul Strand, American: (1890-1976): 1917: hand-pulled photogravure from Camera Work XLIX/L: 22.4 x 16.6 | 29.7 x 20.6 cm: This iconic portrait of a blind woman, who has been issued a peddler's license by the city seen above her sign, was taken by Strand with the aid of either a false or prism lens as part of a series of ground-breaking modernist photographs done on the streets of New York City in the Fall of 1916. Writing the same year this portrait appeared in Camera Work, in August, 1917, an essay on Photography for the journal The Seven Arts concludes with the following observations by Strand-observations that could also certainly apply to the joyful diversity of human beings themselves, as in this case- womankind herself: "The existence of a medium, after all, is its absolute justification, if as so many seem to think, it needs one, and all comparison of potentialities is useless and irrelevant. Whether a water-color is inferior to an oil, or whether a drawing, an etching, or a photograph is not as important as either, is inconsequent. To have to despise something else is a sign of impotence. Let us rather accept joyously and with gratitude everything through which the spirit of man seeks to an ever fuller and more intense self-realization." (pp. 525-26) From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

5-juliana-royster-woman-reDetail: "Untitled Study of Woman Reading to Children: Juliana Royster, American: ( 1876-1962) ca. 1905-10: Gelatino-Choloride (POP) print: 11.8 x 10.0 cm: An artist who excelled in multiple mediums, Juliana Royster, from Raleigh, North Carolina, learned photography while attending Saint Mary’s School there, and is best known in the modern era for her founding in 1917, along with husband Jacques (born James) Busbee, (1870-1947) the Jugtown Pottery in Seagrove, North Carolina. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

6-doris-ulmann-woman-looking-out-window-from-roll-jordan-roll-1933Detail: "Woman with Scrub brush Looking out Window": Doris Ulmann, American: (1882-1934): 1933: hand-pulled photogravure: Plate 66 from the deluxe volume Roll Jordan Roll: New York: Robert O. Ballou: (text by Julia Peterkin) 21.0 x 16.3 | 28.4 x 20.5 cm: A landmark photographic volume of the 20th Century featuring ethnographic studies and portraits, this volume features 90 full-page copperplate gravures done in the Pictorial manner. Writing for the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Texas, author Steve Watson describes the volume in part: "The book focuses on the lives of former slaves and their descendants on a plantation in the Gullah coastal region of South Carolina. Peterkin, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Scarlet Sister Mary (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1928), was born in South Carolina and raised by a black nursemaid who taught her the Gullah dialect. She married the heir to Lang Syne, a 2,000-acre cotton plantation, which became the setting for Roll, Jordan, Roll. Ulmann began photographing there in 1929." From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

7-moments-leisure-ben-boyd"A Moments Leisure": Ben J. Boyd: American, ( 1881-1958): ca. 1915-20: Gelatin Silver print, mounted: 24.0 x 14.4 | 26.3 x 15.4 | 34.2 x 26.6 cm: Silhouetted in a doorway, a woman takes a break from hanging laundry seen at center in this unusual home-life study depicting the everyday struggle of women done here by long-time Wilkes-Barre, PA resident and Camera Club member Benjamin Joslin Boyd. From: PhotoSeed Archive

 

8-negative-gelatin-silver-"Female Head Study": unknown, probably American photographer: ca. 1900-20: Reverse negative, Gelatin-silver over Cyanotype photograph, unmounted: 8.7 x 6.2 cm: Whether intentional or not, and for the purposes of this post, this alternative, multi-process study of a young woman is symbolic for a joyous, multi-ethnic celebration of women's diversity everywhere. From: PhotoSeed Archive