Twentieth Century Cats (and their owners).

It’s no surprise that people often take photographs of their pets and some collectors specialise in cats and dogs (horses, rabbits etc.) Whilst not a category I go out of my way to collect I do come across many pets in photo lots. Above on the left is cat photo that is undated but the nature of the original suggests mid twentieth century or earlier. On the right is a photo I took and developed myself (hence the odd colour cast) and dates to the early 1980s. It is the most recent photo in this post.

In the popular imagination cats seem to be more associated with women than with men. Curiously all the cat photos I own show only women with cats (actually, the same is true to a lesser fashion of dog photos). Above we have a photos of four women and a cat next to four girls and a cat. The dresses worn by the women suggest the left hand photo is from the Edwardian period; the girls to the right probably a little later.

Hard to date again but perhaps inter-war?

More cat ladies.

More solo cats.

And finally we must acknowledge that some cats are happy to be the centre of attention and others shun publicity. And despite the reference to cat owners don’t ever forget that “Cats, no less liquid than their shadows…. are seldom truly owned.

The View from Pine Clouds Part 2

 From the end of my drive I can see Black Rocks. I’m often struck by how my neighbours at Botany Bay, as it is called, are dwarfed by the rocks and by the trees behind them. This is the moon and stars above Black Rocks and Botany Bay.

The treeline below Black Rocks often looks spectacular and lends itself to Black and White photography (my default).

Another neighbour’s house against the trees in winter.

And this is Pine Clouds itself looking suitably gloomy though colour photos of the house do exist!

The view from Pine Clouds

The house I live in is called Pine Clouds. There are pine trees in the garden and the position of the house is such that it looks across and down into a valley. As a result the surrounding area is sometimes shrouded in mist and often gives the impression we’re floating above the clouds.

From my front terrace I can see across the valley to Middleton.

Often I get great results which fit in with my interest in minimalism in photography just by pointing and shooting.

Below the Middleton skyline is Dene Quarry. This was taken before the permanent crushing facility was removed.

And this was the day the remaining machinery and crushing tower was blown up.

As Middleton is West of the house we also get spectacular sunsets. I haven’t done anything to the two photographs above. The shots are exactly as taken in the camera.

Here the sunset is reflected in the glass top of a table on the terrace of the house.

And here’s a portion of sky in homage to Mark Rothko. Maybe I should make it an NFT!

Vintage Dancing Girls reaches 500 photographs

What began as a side project to my hobby of collecting old photographs has now reached the point where there are 500 “Vintage Dancing Girls” in my flickr album of that name.

The photograph above is number 500. There is no information to identify the girl or the studio/photographer responsible. Often a photo or RPPC will have the studio printed on the reverse or embossed on the front. With luck there will be the name of the girl(s) that some family member has written on the back. In the case of professional or semi-pro dancers there may be much more information.

Here’s an example of a professional troupe, the George Carden Dancers,  where it’s possible to know much more. Stamped on the reverse is “Copyright Photograph by Associated Television (ATV) (Reproduction for editorial purposes if credit given).” This troupe appeared in many British TV programmes of the 1950s and 1960s including the Royal Variety Performance.

The two photos above come from a  full album of photographs. Very few have any information and certainly none of the performers’ names. All except one of the photographs give the locations as Par, St Ives and Newquay and are dated 1936. The exception is noted as Bognor 1937. There is one photograph of the girls in everyday clothes recorded as Stanmore Common which is in the London Borough of Harrow. Putting the pieces together it seems most likely that the girls are a semi-professional or amateur group of dancers from London who toured the South of England in 1936 and 1937. (The board advertising a demonstration by “London Experts” would seem to confirm this.)

Many troupes were performers in Music Hall and Variety (also a subject I collect). These are four Tiller Girls. When I began this collection I thought the Tiller Girls were just the troupe that used to perform in Sunday Night at the London Pavilion but in fact Tiller Girls began in 1890 under the guidance of John Tiller and there have been many troupes of Tiller Girls. Tiller’s Girls by Dorothy Vernon is a good book if you want to know more about the Tillers and their variants.

Jessie Matthews was probably our greatest dancing girl of all time and is best seen in her musicals of the 1930s. Look her up on YouTube and be amazed. (She later became known as Mrs Dale in the long running radio series Mrs Dale’s Diary).

No identification of the performers on this one but photo is credited to R Foucher-Creteau of Paris.

It’s taken ten years to assemble the collection of Vintage Dancing Girls and simple arithmetic suggests one photograph was added every week but in reality it’s been more sporadic. There have been several albums which have provided multiple photographs, such as the one mentioned earlier of London dancers performing in St Ives. You can see the full album where I will continue to add photographs in my flickr feed.

The Road to Publication

For reasons even I can’t fathom the (nearly) final draft of Ghosts of Time, the sequel to Alchemists of Time, sat on my computer for almost a year. Nor can I tell you what prompted me to get on with publishing it. I just started the process some time in November and once I’d started I kept going.
I suppose the process itself is daunting and may account for my reticence. As a one man band, with help from my wife, it takes ages to proofread what I’ve written and make corrections. Then I needed to design the cover, licence any images I use though in fact there’s only one stock image incorporated into the final design, the rest of the images coming from my own collection of old photographs. Formatting for publication has been a nightmare in the past and I’m still not happy with the results on my previous books. This time around I was able to use formatting software from Reedsy and I have to say it did a fantastic job and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it again or recommend it to others.
Next I had to navigate through the Amazon/Kindle submission process, review previews and submit my cover design. Getting the cover approved took me most time as the submission requirements are exacting and even being out by a millimetre can cause it to be rejected. But eventually everything was approved and I was able to get the book into publication. (The Kindle cover had to be formatted differently and took more time to correct.)
So the first of December 2021 saw the publication of ghosts of time with the Kindle version coming a few days later and now I could relax couldn’t I? Well, no because now I have to publicise the book, write blog entries, update information on Goodreads and try to get the book noticed any way possible. To do this seriously I’m probably looking at doing something daily for the foreseeable future if I want to achieve any sales.
I suppose I’ve answered the question of why it took so long to get to publication. In one sense self- publishing on Amazon is easy and accessible to anyone. On the other hand it takes real effort to go through their processes and get everything right. Once you’ve published your book you have to put so much time and effort into marketing that it can easily become a full time endeavour. It looks easy but it isn’t. I’m not whinging by the way, I know what needs to be done but I’d much rather be writing the next book than learning to be a marketeer.

The Sequel to Alchemists of Time is on the way

This year I have been working hard on the sequel to Alchemists of Time. I spent so much time on it that I delayed publishing Dressing the Dead for months because I didn’t want to leave Alchemists. I can now report that the first draft of the new book, provisionally titled Nine of Swords, is finished and I am now in the process of rewrites and editing with the intent of getting it out there before the end of the year.

This time around it’s 1869, ten years after Alex Harrison was transported from the future. Alex has learned to love his life as a Victorian and settled down and has lost his desire to return to the future. Meanwhile in 1969 Maxine Silver can barely remember Alex and is living a mundane life until some old friends and foes come back into her life.

Everyone thought that Bella Nightingale was dead and time was safe again but they were wrong on both counts. Bella’s acolytes have been working tirelessly to bring her back and this time Bella’s got a new body, that of a swinging sixties woman and she’s going to enjoy every minute of it.

Nine of Swords introduces several new characters and new locations. Expect to be plunged into the Victorian worlds of trains, sport, prisons and stage performances. Meet Isis, Queen of the Night, as she performs her daring magic act and puts her knowledge of creating illusions in the service of defeating Bella. Meet Ezekiel Lee, leader of a modern coven in thrall to Bella. Meet Lenora Barratt a young girl living in a house haunted by Bella. Find out about the true origins and purpose of the camera obscura.

Things have changed in the ten years since Alchemists of Time but some things have remained the same. Bella is still out there and the stability of time is still in doubt. Can she be stopped before it’s too late for everyone and what price are they willing to pay to stop her?

400 Vintage Dancing Girls and counting

The collection of “vintage dancing girls” that I began as a flickr album in 2012 has now passed 400 entries. I’ve no doubt the album title will be considered non-PC these days though, as I have previously written, the term “girl” has been applied very widely and has included men who cross dress. (I haven’t included Vesta Tilley, a very famous male impersonator. Would she be classified as a dancing girl anyway? There are many postcards of her to be found on the internet and a biography by Sara Maitland if you are interested).

As you can see here’s an example of men cross dressing though why and where I do not know. Possibly from an ENSA or other wartime show.

The number of studio posed girls in dance dress is almost impossible to guess but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ran into the hundreds of thousands. This is a good example of the genre.

Another source of material comes from dancing schools. This for instance comes from an album of photographs and articles about amateur productions put on by Raybury Dance school sometime in the 1930s and later.

There have been many dance troupes that performed in variety and where this is clearly the case I have also included them in an album featuring variety, music hall and theatre performers. Again the numbers of these troupes is staggering and it’s very difficult to track down information on them to identify when and where they performed.

This last photograph comes from the famous Windmill Theatre. There are many collectors of material from the Windmill and some of the performers are still alive. This particular photograph lists the performers on the reverse and I was amazed to be contacted by another flickr user who told me one of them was his mum!

Minimalism in Photography

This photograph which I pretentiously named Middleton Chiaroscuro is one of my attempts at minimalism. It’s a zoomed in shot of Middleton seen from the front of my house. It has not been photoshopped except to convert to black and white and remove some condensation that was on the camera lens.

Minimalism in photography (or any art form) is difficult to pin down. Admins of minimalist groups on flickr can be ferociously judgemental on the subject and often remove entries that in their judgement do not meet the required standards. Yet it can be extremely difficult to judge whether something is minimalist or not. It’s all very well to say that a minimalist photograph should have only a small object of focus against a plain background or that it emphasises geometric forms but then you have to ask how small, how plain, how many geometric lines?

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I’m happy to say that this is a minimalist shot. It’s water flowing across a metal sculpture at Yorkshire Sculpture Park….

…. but is this minimalist or not? Also from an exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Part. I’ve distorted the displayed items and to be honest I can’t remember how I did it. (Probably using Filter Forge software.)

And is this minimalist or is it a landscape (or both)?

There are lots of places on the internet where you can find more formal definitions of minimalist photography and examples such as this article from contrastly and this from photo argus.

Finally if you are curious as to what value can be put on minimalist photography then this famous photograph by Andreas Gursky and called Rhein II was sold at auction for over $4.3 million. The original had dog walkers and a factory that he photoshopped out. Make of that what you will.

The Road to Hell….

… is paved with good intentions, so someone said. (Actually first reported in Henry G Bohn’s A Hand-book of Proverbs in 1855 according to Wikipedia). And something went wrong somewhere along the line with this blog as well as with my writing. Well not with my writing per se but with how I deal with it. I recently published my latest novel Dressing the Dead after sitting on it for the best part of a year. The editing process is too difficult, I told myself. The requirements of Amazon to wrangle it into a shape acceptable to their software is a nightmare, I told myself. Besides very few people are ever going to read it so why am I bothering?

As it happens the Amazon specifications are very fiddly but nothing that can’t be overcome with a few hours work. It is true that very few people will ever read the book but that’s not why I wrote it. Yes, it would be nice to have the rights optioned for a film starring Tom Cruise or whoever is the current favoured action hero but I don’t lose sleep thinking about such things. So what is that caused such prevarication on my part and why did it go on for so long?

The answer is that I don’t really know. Nor can I tell you whether this blog will pick up where it left off. All I can say is what is likely to happen with Loake and Patel and what’s in store for Alchemists of Time.

Dressing the Dead finishes on a cliff hanger and you’ll have to read it if you want to know what that is. However, I can tell you that book three in the series will reveal more of Jenny Patel’s back story and that the main theme of the book will be agricultural crime. I bet that’s got your pulse racing hasn’t it? I also don’t think we’ve heard the last of Constance Brown, Melissa Anderson or the Antiphony Group (again read the book damn you!)

Part of the reason that it did take me so long to complete the publication of Dressing the Dead was the fact that I’ve been working on the sequel to Alchemists of Time and every day spent fiddling with fonts and gutters on Dead was time not spent with the Victorians. This time Alex is still stuck in the past with Benjamin Strutt and Daisy whilst Maxine is living a life in an alternative 1960s timeline. The story advances to 1869 and 1969. Writing has been going at a furious pace and the novel has passed the 100K words mark and looks like it’s heading for 150K. For anyone still reading this I’ve set my goal to complete and publish by the end of 2020. If I fail, well then you can come back and talk to me about the road to hell.