Monday, June 16, 2014
Here are four undated photographs of the same young man, all probably taken within a few minutes of each other. There's a severity to his angular features, projecting an indispensable image of male toughness to a tough world, but as we see him trying out poses — with hat or without, looking now left, now right — do we detect as well a certain lack of resolution, as if he were unsure about exactly how to best project that image?
He selects four different varieties of card mount, to be given away as keepsakes to unknown kin or girlfriends, but they're all passed down together, as if he never did quite make up his mind (or maybe he found that he had no one to give them to). A name scrawled in ink on the back of one of the cards may read "Owen Lewis," but next to it there are also traces of a different set of initials, ornately written in pencil.
The photos themselves are barely more than an inch high, and the embossed cardboard mounts that hold them are about 3.25 x 2.25. Based on the man's hat, collar, and necktie, I'm guessing that the photos date from the early 20th century. They may have been produced in an early automatic photo booth, like the one patented by Anatol Josepho, which debuted in 1925. (The technique of sealing the photos within embossed card mounts originated in the tintype era, decades earlier.)