Thursday, 8 December 2016

The mystery collection part 4 ............. the portrait, the town and the men at sea

Now I am back with that mystery collection of photographs of which we know very little about.

In all there are forty-six images which were originally on 4x5 glass negatives showing everyday life somewhere on the Belgian coast at the beginning of the last century.

In all probability they would have been lost had they not been given to friend of David Kennedy who thought he might be interested in them and as they say the rest is photographic history.

I dare say there are collections with a greater claim on photographic history but these nevertheless capture the moment.

Today I am drawn to three very different images.

The first is of an unknown man and his son.

They stare back at us with all the confidence of people who have the money to command a posed studio photograph.

And like most people I focus on their appearance.  The father is in a well made suit with matching waistcoat and tie and his son is dressed in a sailor suit which was standard dress for his class from the mid 19th century onwards.

But look a little more closely and it is apparent that this is a working photograph perhaps the first of a series because the backdrop doesn’t quite fill the whole picture.

Behind them are shelves full of photographic props along with discarded frames and pictures and if we look even closer the backdrop itself is uneven and creased.

So, perhaps this is not the high class studio I had at first thought.

That said our photographer was not averse to getting out and recording the everyday life of the streets and the workplace.

Of these one of my favourites is the busy town square with its row of cafes, bars and hotels and a  mix of people going about their business.

I did try using the names of those hotels to locate where we are but the passage of a century and a bit pretty much meant this was a dead end.  Still I always travel in hope and it may just be that one of them will crop up on an advert or in a directory.

Which just leaves me with the third which unlike the others is one of those work a day images.

Almost half of the collection concentrates on men at sea and this one I like because there is nothing staged about it rather it captures a moment at sea with the captain and first mate deep in conversation while the
business of steering the ship goes on.

Pictures, from the collection of David Kennedy

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