Saturday, July 20, 2013

Scenes of Rural Life

The images on this page reproduce part of a group of Real Photo postcards that may have originated in western Pennsylvania. The one above is probably the oldest; it's printed on postcard stock, in this case sold by an unknown manufacturer, that became obsolete around 1907, when postal regulations were updated to permit including a message, in addition to the mailing address, on the reverse of the card. The wall behind the adolescent boy has been decorated with a variety of posters and advertisements, though it's difficult to read the lettering because of the angle and the exposure. Even so, the central image of the boy and his horse is nicely composed.

The remainder are later, printed on Azo postcard stock manufactured from 1918-1930, and may be the work of a single photographer, one who developed his own images but hadn't quite mastered the printing process. In the first, an oval frame was employed, but only on the right side. Note the rungs on the tree to enable climbing. The name "Harold Bixler" is written on the back.

The image below, of a woman holding a cat, is even more askew (these scans are aligned with the axes of the cardstock, not of the print).

In the composite below, I have juxtaposed the two cards to show how the ragged edge and the dark background on the left side apparently align. If I'm correct, the two prints must have been made at the same time.

The awkwardly exposed image below may also belong with the previous two; if rotated 90° to the left, it also is a possible candidate for aligning with the top of the print of the woman with the cat.

The dark backgrounds framing these three prints appear to be previously exposed film. I don't really understand the developing technique involved here, but it's clear the photographer was improvising, probably with minimal training and rudimentary equipment. That would make sense given the general poverty and isolation of the scenes, but it says something that he or she was driven, even under less than optimal conditions, to preserve a little bit of the surrounding world.

None of these postcards were ever addressed or mailed.

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