I hear these lines from Frank Sinatra’s My way almost every night when my boyfriend attempts to sing our baby to sleep. Ironically, it is precisely because of this little human that I have to say goodbye to this blog, for now. Life has switched to a higher gear these past few months, and it is hard to slow down and find the time and the right headspace to contemplate photography.
When we started this blog, years before the first post was ever published, we wanted it to be a fun, informal, and not too-many-strings-attached endeavor. We spent hours treasure hunting, scanning, musing, writing and editing. I hope you enjoyed joining us in our contemplations, musings and thoughts for the past year and a half. I hope you liked following our train of thought, our random associations.
I want to thank my better half in this undertaking, the Ginger to my Mint. Without her endless enthusiasm, patience and support, we would have never gotten to 32 published posts. Dear Réka, I couldn’t have done this with anyone other than you. I am damn proud of us for persevering.
The time has come to part from this blog: life happens and so it goes. One of us has become a mother of a human baby while holding down an exciting job, the other is expecting a book, and tending to a beautifully complex documentary project together with Harm van de Poel.
It might only be a break, might be for good; what the future brings we shall see.
It has been a labour of love and we do hope that one way or another we will create together again.
A picture says more than a thousand words; a cliché that has been thrown around willy-nilly. I am not quite sure if I fully agree with this statement, but I do concede that an image can convey a lot of meaning in a single, flat frame. Image and text can supplement and support each other, but heavily influence each other as well. Therefore, I wouldn’t argue that pictures speak louder than words, but that they can speak louder with words.
Let’s first take a look at this image itself, with complete disregard for its context. Arguably, as if there is such a thing, for because I have seen the information underneath the image on the carte-de-visite, it already influences the way I look at the photo. Looking at it with a completely open unbiased mind is simply not possible. Nevertheless, I am going to pretend I can.
We see a medium-length profile portrait of a young woman in a white ruffled dress. Her brown hair is up in a bun and her gaze is directed off-camera, slightly upwards to the right.
Now, let’s review this seemingly inconspicuous photograph in its context. The object as a whole is a carte-de-visite, a nineteenth-century type of business card with a photograph you’d give to friends and relatives to bestow upon them your most handsome face. This is the first piece of information outside of the image itself that teaches me more about it. Cartes-de-visite were mostly produced between the 1880s and the 1920s, so this fact gives me an idea of when this object came into being. They were produced by studio photographers, not expensive but not for everyone, which also indicates that this woman was able to afford them and therefore of a certain considerable wealth level.
Underneath the image of this lovely young lady is the information of the photographer, printed in gold, accompanied by a weapon. The photographer, indicated as “Scherling, A.” is Scherling Antal, located in Szatmár. This piece of contextual information catalyses at least two understandings about this object. First, that the photograph was taken by a man; second, that it was taken in Hungary.
The back of the object isn’t what you’d expect from a carte-de-visite. Usually, a photographer prints more elaborate information about his practice on the back, like a complete address and sometimes some of his specialities. In this case, the back looks like it has in the past been pasted to something and later torn off again, typically showing several different layers of the paper that has been torn off because of the adhesion of the glue. In this mess of different layers, someone has handwritten some small notes: “Moiri[a]!/ † 1960 szapt. 30 du 6”.
This annotation at the back sparks some more contextual information about the image. First, the first word is probably the woman’s name, Moiria or Moira… Second, she has passed away in 1960, which seems to match the expected age of the woman in the photograph, the period cartes-de-visite were mostly produced and the active years of the photographer. And third, the photograph was in the possession of someone whose first language is Hungarian.
A photograph can be seen as one of those rooms of detectives in tv shows, the walls covered with images, newspaper clippings, drawings and timelines, connected with strings to indicate connections between the pieces of information. Every piece of contextual information does the same for a photograph and is connected to the image with a piece of string. But from every one of these pieces of contextual information, new lines emerge that connect to other pieces. Together this forms a web of context connected to every image, like a cloud of information belonging to it. In this way, a photograph can indeed speak with a thousand words.
There is another side to every story. And it’s just one click away!
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