Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

Monday’s post, incidentally, was the 100th in the history of 5,478 Days/Hope Street. Thanks to all who have tuned in. I will endeavor to keep making it worth your while.

In Monday’s post, I briefly mentioned that my grandpa used to win and place in the Stamford Advocate’s reader photography contests back in the 1950s.

In keeping with the Blumenau family philosophy of keeping everything (and knowing where to find it), I’ve unearthed some of the old newspapers in which my grandpa’s prize-winning photographs originally ran.

Check it out, news nerds: This is what “reader-supplied value-added content” looked like when Dwight Eisenhower was President. (Of course you can click any of the pix to see ’em bigger.)

The above pic appeared in the Aug. 22, 1953, Advocate. The cutline says this picture of my dad, Aunt Elaine, and two slow-moving friends was “the week’s winner in Class III, children and animals.” (I’m sure my grandpa was crafty enough to realize that children plus animals would be a sure-fire winner.)

Although my grandfather’s yard on Hope Street bordered no body of water that I know of, turtles could occasionally be found wandering through.

There exists, in the family archives, a picture (taken roughly a quarter-century after this one) of an endearingly alarmed young me shoving my dad away as he tries to introduce me to a Hope Street yard-turtle.

But I digress.

From the Aug. 11, 1956, edition, here we have an “amusing and unusual” picture that won the top award in Class II. Not sure what Class II was — feet, maybe? Saddle shoes?

I like the dry, boring old-school newspaper photo headline: “Ankle View Tells The Story.” I would have opted for “Two Feet of Water” myself. Or maybe “Standing Water”?

Perhaps the apex of my grandpa’s amateur photography career. From the Aug. 31, 1957, Advocate. This ghostly shot won my grandpa first prize out of 16 “Best in Class” winners over four weeks of contests. For his efforts, he won $25 and a first-place ribbon.

And finally, from the Aug. 30, 1952, Advocate, we have the famous faked girl-by-window shot, which won my grandfather second place in the overall photo contest (presumably it won in some earlier category):

The Advocate was kind enough to run a story about that year’s winners, from which we learn the following about my grandpa:

Mr. Blumenau made the picture with a standard Rolleiflex camera, which is what he uses for all his work. He has been taking pictures for about 15 years and started originally with a smaller camera, graduating to the Rollei as he became more interested in his hobby.

The pensive young lady in the picture is Mr. Blumenau’s daughter, Elaine, who posed for the shot at her daddy’s direction. Mr. Blumenau does his own developing and printing, but has no darkroom at present. He plans to build one in his basement eventually, but at present is a little too busy raising a family. He is not a member of a camera club, but once belonged to the well-known Springfield Pictorialists, a group of enthusiastic amateur photographers who meet in Springfield, Mass.

Mr. Blumenau is a machine design draftsman. What he knows about picture making he has picked up on his own, through reading and actually taking and developing pictures. Judging from the fine results he gets, his method must have merit!

The self-trained lone wolf of family photography (at center) receives his award.


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It’s a scene Monet could have painted.

A sun-parched, stubbornly green parcel of grass juts into a cerulean expanse of water, with a dark rim of looming land barely visible in the far distance.

A speeding boat slices from right to left, while a rock outcropping breaks the water near the picture’s center — close enough to be reached by the handful of bathers poised in various attitudes by the shore.

Rounding out the scene at far right is a single shade tree, its dark-green leaves offering solace to at least one party of travelers camped out under its branches.

This image isn’t hanging in a museum anywhere. Nor, as far as I know, was it ever rendered in oil on canvas.

My grandfather, with his artist’s eye, captured it with a camera one summer’s day.

And I’m going to guess wildly that I know just where and when he took it.

July 31, 1975.

Cove Island Park is owned and operated by the city of Stamford, and overlooks Long Island Sound.

I’ve never been there myself, so I can’t be sure. But I’m somehow convinced my grandpa’s faux-Monet picture — which I know dates to 1975 — was taken there.

You can fish at Cove Island (as someone in the photo appears to be doing), or walk on a one-mile loop trail, or go birdwatching. Or you can just pack a couple of turkey sandwiches and a camera and enjoy lunch al fresco, as my grandparents and great-grandma apparently did.

July 31, 1975, was a Thursday. I’m guessing that explains why there aren’t that many people on the beach.

My grandpa was retired by then; he could go any day he wanted. And since his house didn’t have air conditioning, he wasn’t going to be any cooler staying at home on a humid day than he was venturing out to the shore.

It doesn’t really matter where or when the picture was taken, in the end.

No matter what its backstory, it’s still an exquisite slice of the stillness of summer, and an image worthy of hanging in a gallery somewhere.

Until that happens, this blog will have to do.

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A little thematic music.

This post doesn’t have any real connection to yesterday’s. It’s just an opportunity to whip out a couple pictures my grandfather took that I kinda like, but that don’t have any other home in the narrative.

Thought you might enjoy these — especially as a reminder, in this wintry time of year, that there really are four seasons, and the weather isn’t going to be snowy forever, and the dogwoods will bloom in just a couple of months.

My grandpa took these in 1957-58, looking out from (I believe) the rear-facing attic window at 1107 Hope Street. Click for larger versions of the pix if you are so moved.

Back yard in winter.

Back yard in spring, with dogwood in full effect.

Summer. The trees are in leaf, the roses are in bloom, the Yanks are in first, and all is right with the world.

Back yard in autumn.

And back again to a frosty blue winter evening.

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This post was originally written last October, but was bumped by breaking news for a post about Kodak. I rescheduled it for this week — just in time for Kodak bankruptcy rumors to hit the world anew. Timing is everything.

I wonder what my grandfather would have made of digital cameras.

He was an avid photographer whose pictures have already illustrated, and greatly improved, a number of my blog entries. (You can click here and here to see some of his artsier compositions.)

Dropping in a new roll, 1969.

Personally, I love digital cameras because they give me much crisper shots than I’ve ever gotten. I never learned to use good film SLRs when I was younger, so my only cameras growing up were cheap point-and-shoots that took mediocre pictures.

Today I can go to Citizens Bank Park, sit in seats so far away they might as well be in Conshohocken, and use (at best) a mid-level digital point-and-shoot to take a picture of a home-plate celebration clear enough to tell one player from another:

May 2010. Click to see larger - it looks a little better that way. Taken from Section 955 or someplace like that.

My grandfather might have enjoyed the effortlessness of digital photography. As a thrifty sort, he definitely would have enjoyed not having to pay to get his pictures developed.

As a perfectionist, he would have liked the freedom to wipe his less successful shots and keep only the good ones.

And, as a creative type who occasionally painted or manipulated his pictures, he might have done some interesting stuff with Photoshop or other photo-editing software.

But, as a craftsman, he would have still kept and used a film SLR from time to time, I think. I believe the process of thinking through and changing his camera settings would still have appealed to him. He expected more from the photographic experience than just pointing and shooting.

This week’s calendar entry, from 1965, gives a hint of his attachment to the old-school art of photography:

Oct. 3, 1965

Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of the picture(s) my grandfather took that day. (I’m guessing the church in question was the Methodist church across the street from his house, the one mentioned in the “Loyalty Sunday” entry of last November. It had the smallest of playgrounds, where my brother and I sometimes played as kids.)

But whatever it was, it meant enough to him that he documented his camera settings and the time of the shoot, presumably to help him evaluate the finished shots and give him guidance for future pictures.

Had he taken his “church pic” with a digital camera — particularly a point-and-shoot — it probably wouldn’t have made enough of an impression on him to write on his calendar. With an SLR, though, the thought process resonated enough with him to make him write it down.

As I’ve mentioned, I still have an old film SLR (a Pentax K1000) that my grandfather used. If I lived any closer to Stamford, it would be fun to take it to the church, replicate his settings some early October afternoon, and see what I got.

I still have a couple of recipes from my grandmothers, and enjoy making them from time to time. What I have here is a recipe of sorts from my grandfather — for art, not food. Start with two pinches of f-stop, mix in a dash of shutter speed and blend with 2 p.m. worth of autumnal natural light. Then shoot, develop and serve.

I’m not as comfortable behind the shutter as I am in front of the stove, so I can’t duplicate it. But it’s still kinda cool to have it, and to imagine the knowledge and the craftsman’s care that went into creating it.

Come back tomorrow for a vaguely related bonus post.

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