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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • KEEP CLEAN WPA POSTER, 1939

Outdoor Life: 1910

Outdoor Life: 1910

New Zealand circa 1910. "Unidentified group outside a tent, possibly at Sumner, Christchurch." Glass negative by Adam Maclay. View full size.

Darker Arms

The man on the far left and the girl, fourth person from the left, both each have one very dark arm and hand. The girl sitting down with the white hat also has a similar dark hand. Is this just an optical illusion, are they in shadow, was this poorly developed, or is there another cause?

There is a little shoe, possibly drying out, hanging at the top of the tent.

Photography Was Still a Big Deal

I'm pretty sure the subjects are neither scared nor grim. Although photography was hardly new by 1910, most people had still never been photographed. In addition to the fact that holding still for a slow shutter is easier with a solemn face than with a smiling one, having one's photograph taken was still momentous for the average person and therefore an occasion to be taken seriously. It seems obvious to us now that one should smile for a photograph even when a few seconds before one was simply chatting with a relaxed face, but that cultural norm would have seemed almost manic to most people in the first decades of photography and probably still seemed so to many people in 1910. Think about oil portraits: we don't expect big grins there and in fact often appreciate solemnity.

It's a case of HCP!

The men of the family, self-described as amateur astronomers and outdoor enthusiasts, assured the ladies that a night spent in the woods would serve as the best location for the observance of Earth's traversing of the tail of Halley's Comet. The ladies disagreed as revealed by the clear signs of HCP (Halley's Comet Panic) across their fear-stricken faces.

Idyllic NZ

Oh, to have been a privileged Kiwi during those splendid times. All dressed up and dining al fresco -- back in those same years, my American ancestors were shoveling coal and taking in laundry. Missed the boat, in more ways than one!

If we could just think of a word

Something people could say when you take their photograph and it looks like they are smiling.

Trying for a boy

The wife looks with child again - I bet he is hoping for a boy!

Look At The Birdie

How frightening was the photographer?

Double take sisters

The woman holding the child qualifies as the older sister of Marjorie Main (Ma Kettle) and the one seated in front of the bicycle as the sister of Margaret Hamilton (Wicked Witch of OZ). Will be interesting to hear from our bicycle experts on this one.

Family Fun?

This may be a family group, as the woman with the teacup on the left bears a strong resemblance to the younger girl kneeling, also holding a teacup.

The folks in these photos always seem so stiff and reserved; they just don't appear to be having any fun.

I guess I wouldn't either if I had to wear my Sunday best just to go camping....

Pretty (Scared) Girls

The young girl on the extreme left is extraordinarily pretty. The older girl on the right is as well.

But what strikes me is that every single female in this photo looks fearful.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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