Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Shorpy's Blog

For the few of you who semi-regularly visit this blog, you've probably figured out I'm more than a little interested in history and things of a historical nature including, but not limited to, all things photographic.

As such, I was happy to discover the photographic wonderments of Shorpy: The 100-Year-Old Photo Blog. (Hat tip to Pop Photo's State of the Art blog for pointing me to Shorpy.)

No, the Shorpy blog itself isn't 100-years-old. D'uh. Blogs didn't exist 100 years ago. Neither did the internet... except, perhaps, in the futurist minds of writers like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, although I don't believe either of them ever wrote about it. (But I could be wrong.)

Instead, Shorpy is a photoblog featuring high-definition images from the first half of the 20th century. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a 14-year-old boy who worked in an Alabama coal mine and ironworks in the 1910s. I doubt Shorpy could ever have dreamed his name and likeness would someday grace the masthead of something called a "photoblog." But who knows? Perhaps Shorpy, like Verne and Wells, was somewhat precognitive? Stranger things have happened!

At the top is a picture of a young, grease-soaked, Shorpy, photographed by Lewis Wickes Hine, standing front-and-center amongst a group of his (also quite young) co-workers at the old mine and ironworks. Hine is one of my all-time-favorite editorial photographers. His images of child labor in turn-of-the-century American industry, as well as his photo-documentation of the construction of the Empire State Building in New York City, are indelibly etched in the history of American photojournalism.

If you're like me and you enjoy viewing photographic glimpses of the past, you'll probably spend some quality time at Shorpy: The 100-Year-Old Photo Blog.


Anonymous said...

Question for you Jimmy ... why do so many people (myself included) find old pictures like these so captivating to look at? They didn't have fancy digital cameras, light meters, fancy foldable reflectors to bounce light or high grade film, yet the pictures stand out. Any comments on why that is so? Was the photographer that good? Is it the composition or the use of the lighting or what?


jimmyd said...

I don't think there's a pat answer to your question. The reasons why folks like you and I are so captivated by old photos might be as different as the visual contents of the photos themselves. For me, it's about glimpsing the past through a time-machine-like window, courtesy of the photographic processes and those who wielded the cameras.

I've often viewed paintings of historical events and wish that a camera could have captured the event or moment. It's not that photography is a pure and accurate representation of an event--the photographer has a point-of-view, after all, and it is recorded along with the image--but, it seems to me, a photo would more accurately depict the event than and artist's brush. It's a closer feeling of actually "being there."

eolake said...

I love Shorpy's.

I've been wondering exactly the same as EJB.