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Posts Tagged ‘photography’

One of my most loyal readers, Maryanne, said last week she enjoyed seeing pictures of the Springdale Methodist Church before and after it partially burned in 1967.

That got me thinking:

– I’ve got a whole lot of my grandfather’s old pictures, many of which capture sights around the Springdale neighborhood of Stamford.

– My grandfather much enjoyed photography, and would probably have liked the idea that people around the world could see his pictures.

– Nobody’s really going to be disappointed not to read 800 more of my words.

So this week I’m going to post a bunch of my grandfather’s photos from the 1950s through the ’80s. The photo buffs and local-history fans will dig it; others might enjoy a look back in time, not to mention more glimpses of my grandfather’s artistic vision.

Click to see the pix larger, if you’re interested:

1957 or '58. Maybe the Stamfordites in the crowd know where this was taken; I don't.

1957 or ’58. Maybe the Stamfordites in the crowd know where this was taken; I don’t.

Same year, probably same parade; the Dolan Junior High Band. My dad is visible in this pic but I am more intrigued by the young lady in the foreground, who has the gently alarmed look of a double agent who has been discovered.

Same year, probably same parade; this is the Dolan Junior High Band. My dad is visible in this pic but I am more intrigued by the detached (perhaps hostile) young lady in the foreground whose lipstick adds a flash of colour to the proceedings. I imagine her playing Julia in a movie treatment of “1984.”

Circa 1958. My aunt Elaine, newly conscripted into the Eisenhower Youth, stands ready (sits ready?) to ward off attacking Commies.

Circa 1958. My aunt Elaine, newly conscripted into the Eisenhower Youth, stands ready (sits ready?) to ward off attacking Commies.

Model trains, late 1950s. How much to ride on the All-American Turnpike?

Model trains, late 1950s. How much to ride on the All-American Turnpike?

Speaking of trains, this is somewhere in Stamford, 1959.

Speaking of trains, this is somewhere in Stamford, 1959. I think it looked uglier than it really was.

Crowd, Darien High vs Stamford High football game, 1958.

Crowd, Darien High vs Stamford High football game, 1958.

Stamford High football, this time 1959. Not sure who they're playing, but it appears to be an extremely confusing visual matchup of orange vs. red.

Stamford High football, this time 1959. Not sure who they’re playing, but it appears to be an extremely confusing visual matchup of orange vs. red.

Springdale Methodist confirmation class with Pansy, the neighbors' dog.

Springdale Methodist confirmation class with Pansy, the neighbors’ dog.

My grandma at some rest stop somewhere, 1959. I love this pic but couldn't tell you why.

My grandma at some rest stop, 1959. I love this pic but couldn’t tell you why.

Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, Connecticut, 1959.

Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, Connecticut, 1959.

Merritt Parkway, somewhere in Connecticut, 1959.

Merritt Parkway, somewhere in Connecticut, 1959.

Talmadge Hill commuter rail station, New Haven, c. 1960.

Talmadge Hill commuter rail station, New Haven, c. 1960.

Dancing at a Methodist church youth retreat, 1960. Everyone's hands appear to be where Jesus can see them.

Dancing at a Methodist church youth retreat, 1960. Everyone’s hands appear to be where Jesus can see them.

More from the Methodist church retreat. This, believe it or not, is one of the reverends.

More from the Methodist church retreat. This is one of the reverends, believe it or not. Google suggests he went south, joined the Freedom Riders and got arrested a year or two later. Wonder if Little Rock’s finest let him keep his cigarettes?

Cove Island, Stamford, 1960. In the days before pollution controls, lots of big hairy stuff used to just float around in the air.

Cove Island, Stamford, 1960. In the days before pollution controls, lots of big hairy stuff used to just float around in the air.

Springdale train station, probably fall 1960, with a cameo by the New York, New Haven & Hartford.

Springdale train station, probably fall 1960, with a cameo by the New York, New Haven & Hartford. I can’t barely remember the last time I went out into a public place and saw multiple men wearing hats.

Easter sunrise service, somewhere in Stamford, 1960.

Easter sunrise service, somewhere in Stamford, 1960.

This appears to be the sorriest-looking strawberry festival ever held, Springdale, 1963. Several of the people seem to be looking at the camera with outright hostility.

This appears to be the sorriest-looking strawberry festival ever held, Springdale, 1963. Several of the people seem to be looking at the camera with outright hostility.

The same strawberry festival, this time with the Blumenau family Ford in the foreground, shining as if it had just rolled out of a magazine ad.

The same strawberry festival, this time with the Blumenau family Ford in the foreground, gleaming as if it had just rolled out of a magazine ad.

Backyard picnic, Hope Street, 1964. Check out my grandpa, digging into what appears to be a chicken leg, with (as the kids on the Internet say) absolutely zero f--ks given.

Backyard picnic, Hope Street, 1964. Check out my grandpa, digging blithely into what appears to be a chicken leg.

Trip to the beach, summer 1964. That's a lot of Detroit metal right there.

Trip to the beach, summer 1964. That’s a lot of kandy-kolored Detroit metal right there (and two representatives from Wolfsburg).

World's Fair, Queens, 1964.

World’s Fair, Queens, 1964.

My grandma and aunt plot their next course, World's Fair, 1964.

My grandma and aunt plot their next course, World’s Fair, 1964.

One of my great-grandma's piano recitals, 1966. Anyone spot themselves?

One of my great-grandma’s piano recitals, 1966. Anyone spot themselves?

My great-grandma, 80 years old, 1967.

My great-grandma, 80 years old, 1967.

1968.

1968.

No beer.

No beer.

A look out onto a surprisingly placid Hope Street, circa 1970-72. Dunno whether the fruit basket was coming or going.

A look out onto a surprisingly placid Hope Street, circa 1970-72. Dunno whether the fruit basket was coming or going.

The three Mrs. Blumenaus, Penfield, N.Y., 1975.

The three Mrs. Blumenaus, Penfield, N.Y., 1975.

My brother, not sure he likes either slides or cameras; Stamford, 1975.

My brother, not sure he likes either slides or cameras. Stamford, 1975.

As verdant a portrait of suburbia as has ever been taken. The family is treated to a swim in the neighbors' pool, summer '75. The garage of 1107 Hope Street is in the background, as is my family's '73 Plymouth Satellite. I am the little kid stood up on the stool, clutching the beach ball.

As verdant a portrait of suburbia as has ever been taken. The family is treated to a swim in the neighbors’ pool, summer 1975. The garage of 1107 Hope Street is in the background, as is my family’s ’73 Plymouth Satellite. I am the little kid stood up on the stool, clutching the beach ball.

In the shadows of 1107 Hope Street, 1983, a year before my grandparents sold the place.

In the shadows of 1107 Hope Street, 1983, a year before my grandparents sold the place. The front door with the glass butterfly leads out onto the porch facing an increasingly busy Hope Street. The house lives on in the shadows of memory; maybe this is a good place to leave off.

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Still making with the snapshots. The calendar entries will be back soon.

If last week’s Blumenau family snapshot is like a behavioral experiment — how will the members of a small group of people interpret or resist a request? — this week’s photo poses a different question:

How will the members of a small group of people respond to unexpected adversity?

The seven people in this picture are in a situation we’ve all been in at some point in our lives:

– They are arrayed in front of a camera that’s been set to go off via self-timer.

– The camera, a high-precision assemblage of the best consumer imaging technology Japan has to offer, has gotten stuck.

– The people have waited – first patiently, then less and less so – for the shutter to fall, holding their poses and nursing their smiles.

– At long last, the camera master has given up and gone to fix the problem.

– And then, inevitably: Click.

Summer 1978.

Summer 1978.

Most of the family appears to be clinging to some semblance of their formal poses. They know in their bones that the camera will click as soon as they slacken. They are locked into a test of patience, a steely death-match that rewards its winners with the eternal appearance of calmness and composure.

My grandfather, the camera master, has done what camera masters have done in this situation since time eternal. Like a captain staying on the bridge as his ship takes on water, he is honoring a moral code. It is his duty to break his pose, walk toward the errant camera — and, inevitably, lose the death-match.

My father appears to have craned his head around and behind my mother’s to get a glimpse of the camera, as if that would allow him to diagnose what was wrong with it. In this moment of hubris, he has also lost the death-match.

(The little kid in the cutoffs, whose name is Kurt, has also let his concentration slip, but not as badly as his father and grandfather. And anyway, little kids get free passes in situations like this.)

Perhaps my grandpa’s control over his camera has slackened because he is not on Hope Street.

The setting for this photo is the backyard of my childhood home in Penfield, N.Y. The assemblage behind us is a temporary screened-in structure, erected in spring and dismantled in fall. It lives on in family lore as “the scream house” — not because it was used for the torture and dismemberment of passing hoboes, but because of a childish mispronunciation of “screen house.”

Finally, I cannot help but compare this week’s picture to last week’s, and note what 18 years did to my grandfather. Last week he looked virile; this week he looks old.

The years between 1960 and 1978 were busy, demanding and sometimes quite challenging for my grandpa.

(If you don’t know the details, click here and read forward. I suggest you set aside some time…)

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I mentioned last week I’d probably divert from the calendar entries for a few, and write a couple posts based primarily on my grandpa’s photos. Indeed.

Two years ago around this time, I wrote a post about a gorgeous, timeless heat-of-summer photo my grandpa captured.

Most likely, it was taken July 31, 1975, during a visit to Cove Island Park, a public park in Stamford overlooking Long Island Sound.

The picture I wrote about isn’t the only great photo my grandfather took on that trip. Y’all wanna click on this and look at it full-size for a minute:

Solitude

(Yes, there is a honkin’ big hair-thing in the photo, probably an artifact of the scanning process. I look at it from a Zen perspective: All things manmade must have a fault somewhere, or else they wouldn’t be manmade. Look past it, out toward the eternal sea.)

I am guessing the woman in the picture — laboriously dressed to block the sun, even on a 90-degree day — is my grandmother. She would have dressed like that to go to the beach.

And, since the original calendar entry mentions “lunch at Cove Island,” it’s possible that the bag or basket in her hand has a couple sammiches in it. It’s not a large bag, but my grandparents were not gluttonous.

I’m not hung up on literal reproduction of the day’s events, though. What I like is the story between the lines.

Check out the woman in long sleeves and pants, separated by both height and distance from the faraway figures on the beach.

She is so close to freedom and relaxation and pleasure, she can practically reach out and touch it. And yet, it is not hers to have.

Her clothing and posture suggest a certain fundamental ambivalence about it. She has deliberately brought herself to the place of sun- and sea-worship, but has come prepared to deny herself any participation.

Down on the beach, practically at the photo’s center, is a young family — what looks like two parents and a small child — suggesting fertility, vigor and action. Up on the viewing deck is a single person, suggesting stillness, confinement and loneliness. Is youth a release? The image suggests so.

Both a fence and a road separate the woman from the beach. In the endless dichotomy between civilization and nature, man and wilderness, she is staying firmly planted in the known, sanitized, well-defined world of settled life.

There is no visible threat to keep the woman on the deck away from the beach. No riptides; no thunderclouds; no crush of towel-to-towel, shoulder-to-shoulder bathers.

She just chooses not to go, even though the grass beckons with a wonderful deep green, and the sky presents a tapestry of deep blue dotted with cumulus white.

Also note, while we’re at it, the rich marine blue color of the observation deck. It’s sorta like a copy of the ocean … a flat, tamed version of the sea in which even the likes of my grandma can feel comfortable parking her feet.

I am sure my grandparents eventually made their way down to the beach, got comfortable after a fashion, and enjoyed their lunch.

But in this single fall of the shutter are more complicated possibilities.

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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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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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