American Collections blog

41 posts categorized "Photography"

23 December 2013

Happy Holidays from Team Americas!

A stereoscopic image of Mt. Rundle, Banff, by Byron Harmon, 1908


Just before we head off for the Christmas break, we've dug out a couple of suitable images for you from our Canadian photographs collection (aka 'a Canadian photo for every occasion'). Both are available on our Picturing Canada pages on Wikimedia Commons.


The Canadian Winter Girl, 1905. Alfred W. Bell


We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We'll be back in 2014!



27 September 2013

Before the Avatar, the Mugshot


In this digital age, it is hard to escape the semiotics of the avatar; even at work we get to chose one for the staff directory or our internal social network. A recent acquisition, Defenders and Offenders (New York, 1888) offers a chance to peek at earlier versions of this artform: the mugshot.  In this title, the Defenders – the lawmen of Brooklyn and New York – are given a page of biography and a large, elegant side portrait. The Offenders are presented face on (rarely entirely flattering), and squeezed into a grid of four.  All are rendered in very compelling and understated chromolithography. We leave you, the reader, to decide which is most appropriate for us.  . 

Historians, particularly the historian of photography and science, have long paid attention to the cultural meanings of the mugshot. There is also surely something to be made of the rather mean text that accompanies each portrait: 'Mrs Hattie Connelly is an adventuress and swindler, and also known by the names of Carroll, Styles, Bruce and canal boat Hattie.  Her latest adventure was in June, 1888, when she swindled an old man of 68 years of age, in Jersey City, out of over $2,000.  Mrs. Connelly is fair, fat, and 40, and the way the old man was taken in by this clever confidence woman is something remarkable'. (There is an account of her case in The New York Times, 28 April 1888.) Law & Order: 1888, we await you. 



11 September 2013

Rebuilding after 9/11


Spire installed at the top of One World Trade Center by Alec Perkins Some Rights Reserved


It hardly seems possible that it’s 12 years since the horrors of 9/11. As usual, over the last week or so the TV networks have been showing numerous programmes relating to the events of that day but it’s been good to also see some stories which focus on post 9/11 developments in New York. I would recommend in particular that you try to catch Belfast-born artist and film-maker Marcus Robinson's Rebuilding The World Trade Center, an artistic project "about reconstruction, ambition and humanity."

In 2006, when Ground Zero had finally been cleared and the numerous disputes around the rebuilding resolved, Robinson was given permission to document (through film, photography, drawing and painting) construction on the  World Trade Center site, which must be one of the most scrutinised building projects in the world. Through time-lapse photography (with 13 cameras taking a frame once every 30 minutes), we get to see exactly what goes in to the construction of  a skyscraper (the focus is on Tower One), as beautifully edited sequences distill over 7 years work to almost the blink of an eye. Interspersed with the time-lapse photography are numerous interviews with the army of people who are needed for such a massive building project – surveyors, site managers, engineers, construction workers and a whole host of others, many of whom wanted to be involved in the project for very personal reasons.  And although the photography is stunning, it is the construction workers and riggers who are the real stars (and heart) of this story of epic architecture and engineering (they are aptly described as a kind of Greek chorus by one reviewer). In particular, it’s amazing to watch the legendary iron workers as they walk across open girders hundreds of feet in the air in the world's most dangerous circus. "I see a lot of things up there, I get chills, see shadows. I don’t know if you call them ghosts or whatever, but you feel stuff. They’re trying to tell you something." comments Joe “Flo” McComber, one of a long line of Mohawks who have been involved in building New York’s skyscrapers since the early twentieth century.  And look out for the wonderful Chantelle Campbell, an ex-secretary but now concrete carpenter, who isn’t content with doing "light work" but says “I want to be seen on the same level as the men… I don’t have the type of personality where I’m going to back down. That gets me a lot of respect." And you really can’t imagine anyone arguing with her.

Ending (well almost, but not quite) with a joyful party on the roof, Rebuilding the World Trade Center is an uplifting film in every sense.  The actual end and final stage of the build was in fact the incredibly complex and dangerous crowning of Tower One with a huge metal spire earlier this year. The Tower, standing at a symbolic 1,776 feet, is now the tallest building in the U.S. But it was never just going to be about building a new skyscraper - for the crew, or New York. As Marcus Robinson says, "They are healing a scar in the bedrock of the city, in its skyline, and in many ways what they are doing is part of a much greater act of rebuilding and healing."

The documentary is currently still available on the Channel 4OD website and we’ll acquire a copy on dvd for the collections when it becomes available.


26 August 2013

Celebrating: World Dog Day

Pelorus Jack Mascot of HMS New Zealand (HS85-10-29327)

Above: Pelorus Jack of HMS New Zealand. Looks like he loved his job. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Public Domain Mark
These works are free of known copyright restrictions.

At Team Americas we like to give opportunities to all and our canine friends might have felt they had a 'ruff' deal on World Cat Day. But do not fear, we bring you Canada's finest historical pooches for World Dog Day! Unfortunately, it seems early twentieth century Canada was less fond of dogs and so they make fewer appearances in the collection than our feline friends. That said there's not a single cat with a Union Flag in the rest of the photographs...

Squidge Regimental pet of the 24th Battalion (HS85-10-29943)

Above: 'Squidge', proud to sit wherever you tell him. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

An English Setter of the breed coming from the kennel of PL Llewellyn and sometimes termed the Llewellyn Setter photograph of a drawing (HS85-10-14981)

Above: 'Squirrel!' Image from Wikimedia Commons.

So, with that, enjoy World Dog Day everyone - Team Americas will, it's a bank holiday over here!


08 August 2013

The Cats of Canada

The Globe kittens (HS85-10-13446-11)

Above: some of our colleagues may bring you illuminated cats but we bring you cats and books!

Public Domain Mark
These works are free of known copyright restrictions.

Those of you on Twitter will have noticed it is World Cat Day and here at Team Americas we love a bandwagon. So, here's a selection of wonderful felines from the Picturing Canada collection. Enjoy!

A garden party (taken from life) (HS85-10-8754)

Above: a (rather scary) garden party

Fritz the cat (HS85-10-11178)

Above: Fritz, looking magnificent

Topsey's curiosity (HS85-10-20757)

Above: Topsey is curious...

The Globe kittens (HS85-10-13446-3)

Above: another set of bookish kittens to round us off

All images are from the Picturing Canada collection on Wikimedia Commons. You can read more about the collection over at Public Domain Review.


25 July 2013

Prince George - British Columbia

J.Simonson, Prince George, B.C. (HS85-10-35684)
Prince George, BC., May 1, 1919  Available from Wikimedia Commons

Public Domain Mark 

Continuing our theme of a Canadian photo for every occasion, we couldn't resist providing this image of Prince George, British Columbia, taken in May 1919. The city may not come up first in Google searches any longer, but the mayor doesn't seem too bothered, judging by this piece in the Huffington Post! The photo is part of our Picturing Canada project.



23 July 2013

The Royal Baby and Photos for Every Occasion

Courtship and wedding Photo 11 The stork's visit stereoscopic view (HS85-10-17208)

Above: 'The Stork's Visit'. Available from Wikimedia Commons.

Public Domain Mark
These works are free of known copyright restrictions.

Here in Team Americas we've been rather swept up by our own new arrival, Beth's son Camilo, but we couldn't help but notice the House of Windsor's most recent addition too. Also, given Canada's enthusiasm for the Prince of Cambridge we thought it appropriate to roll out a few Canadian photographs that match the mood.

HMS Virago firing in honour of the King (HS85-10-11979)

Above: HMS Virago firing in honour of the King. From Wikimedia Commons.

Needless to say there really is a photograph for every occasion in the collection generated from Picturing Canada, to the extent that some of them even come in 3D (with the right glasses or .gif). On a more serious note, the collection also reflects Canada's historical enthusiasm for the Royal Family, not least in the photographic tributes to Victoria and celebrations of the coronation of Edward VII contained in the collection.

Historical notes aside, enjoy the photographs and congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge from Team Americas (and Australasia).


01 July 2013

Happy Canada Day!


Above: the opening of the Victoria parliament buildings, 1898. From Wikimedia Commons, copyright number 9752 

Public Domain Mark
These works are free of known copyright restrictions.

Many happy returns, Canada, and congratulations on your 146th year. Team Americas has made a habit of marking the occasion but this year is a little different - this year we have arranged a little present.

You see today is the official 'go live' day of the Picturing Canada project. Since I last posted on the blog about it we have completed the digitisation, uploaded over 2,000 new files to Wikimedia Commons and started hosting the images on the Library's Digitised Manuscripts viewer as well. As we mentioned before, the files uploaded onto Commons have all been released under a public domain license and it's great to see that some have already been used in various new contexts.

Above: Dan Patch in one of the collection's many photographs of animals and sports (not always combined...). From Wikimedia Commons, copyright number 16532

For those of you who missed the previous posts, the Picturing Canada project has sought to digitise the Library's collection of colonial copyright photographs. These were accumulated between the years 1895 and 1924 with over 4,000 photographs being part of the final collection. The photographs come from across Canada and the collection covers a dynamic time in Canada's history through the lens of amateurs, as well as some of Canada's more well-known photographers.

Above: composite portrait marking the first cabinet of the Province of Alberta. From Wikimedia Commons, copyright number 16448. 

To illustrate the point, the collection holds photographs of Wilfrid Laurier, the opening of the parliament buildings in Victoria, commemorative photographs marking Alberta and Saskatchewan joining the Confederation, as well as many other photographs of Canadian politics in action.  Canada Day related politics are not the only theme though, expanding lines of communication, wars, migration, growing cities, major sporting events, notable foreign visitors and many other subjects are covered (often from multiple angles) in the collection.

So, with celebrations to attend to (do catch the annual Trafalgar Square party if you have time) I'll sign off with a reminder that you can find and use the images from Wikimedia Commons or browse and view them in fantastic detail on the Library's Digitised Manuscripts viewer (just type 'hs85/10' in the manuscripts search bar). One quick disclaimer on the latter, we're still in the process of getting the photographs onto this so do keep checking back and you'll see more everytime.

Above: one more cat picture! From Wikimedia Commons, copyright number 20757

With all that said, enjoy the day and the photos - and if you do anything exciting with them be sure to let us know!


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