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Documentary Photography

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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