Googling* yourself or comparing yourself to others is the way to madness. However, I was overcome with the desire today to see what my top performing photographs were on flickr. To my surprise it was the photo featured above with 14,384 views and 12 favourites. Interestingly it was this photo, bought at a table top sale, which really kicked off my interest in old photographs and I still know nothing of its origin or whether this is a real native American or someone dressing up for a studio shot.
Next most popular is one of the early additions to my “vintage dancing girls” collection with 10740 views and 13 favourites. It’s probably 1920s in origin and from a studio in Philadelphia.
Third is also from “vintage dancing girls” with 10225 views and 12 favourites. The tall “girl” is a man. What on earth were they thinking when they posed for this?
Fourth is six parlour maids with 9522 views and 15 favourites. Again nice to see a personal favourite doing well especially given the link to Alchemists of Time. I wrote at the time “I suspect they were a mixture of different types of maid from a household as they each had different functions – scullery maid, chamber maid etc. The two girls seated at the front look rather young but girls started in service as young as eight.”
Overall the old photos I scan and put on flickr do much better that my own stuff and personally I use flickr for seeking out old and odd photographs. (It’s also why I bought Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children when it came out and I still think the photos in it are great but the writing is pedestrian).
As you might guess my next most popular postings, after the old photos, is photos of cats. Bel, for instance, scores 1132 views and 11 favourites.
*Actually I don’t recommend googling yourself. If you must do it then DuckDuckGo yourself.
Although I have called my blog Where the Darkness Begins, to reflect the often dark themes of my writing, the blog is also about photography which is nothing more than painting with light. On flickr I most often post photographs from my ever-growing collection of old photographs rather than my own work. There’s a link as I prefer to work in black and white rather than colour. (That’s not to say I don’t do colour work too). All the photographs in this post are by me, Sam Salt, and are “all rights reserved.”
For me there’s something much more mysterious and dreamlike about black and white photography than there is with colour photography. The fact that you are painting with light is made all the more obvious in monochrome. I also find that I am more inclined to make actual prints of monochrome photos than I am of colour photos. This is especially true when it comes to A3 prints where a good print will yield far more detail than can be seen in most colour prints and certainly more detail than can be seen on a computer screen.
Portraits always seem to work better in black and white. Have a look at Best Portrait Photographers for instance – there are one or two colour photos but the majority are in black and white. I’d add Robert Mapplethorpe to the list but be careful where you point that browser if you go looking for his work!
Here’s another one of mine, a personal favourite. This is my step-daughter Kate descending the stairs at Caulke Abbey. It’s the contrast between light and dark that makes it for me.
Here’s Kate at Caulke Abbey again but this time I’ve accentuated the light. Most of these photos have had some adjustments made using Nik Silver Efex Pro, the software I consider to be the most essential to have for black and white photography. Unfortunately Nik was acquired by Google in 2012 and development ceased. However whilst writing this post I was excited to see that the Nik Collection was acquired from Google by French software firm DxO in late 2017 and there are plans to continue development.
WIthout darkness there is no light. Without light there is no darkness.
Miss Marjorie Sear in a beautiful hand-coloured photograph. This is the only colour photograph of her from a recently acquired and comprehensive set of Marjorie and her friends all in dance poses. Many of the photographs are dated around 1939 and this is likely to be from the same period.
I first came across Miss Sear when I bought a set of 22 sepia photographs of her. When I acquired this set the only identification was the envelope in which they came addressed to “Miss Sear.” They came in an envelope from Jerome Ltd of Kings Cross Road London. They were all date stamped 31 March 1939. It wasn’t until I was later able to acquire two more sets of photographs from the same source that I was able to identify her as Marjorie Sear. Lots the photographs feature groups of dancers. I’m not sure whether she appears in all the group photos but she’s certainly in most of them.
On the reverse of this shot her age is given as 15 and it’s the only photo that mentions her age. I would think the sepia shots are her slightly older and there are clearly some of her younger than 15.
About half of the 60+ photos feature Marjorie with her friends in various dance costumes both on stage and outside. Whatever happened in their later lives they were clearly all enthusiastic dancers and liked to dress up.
As ever I am amazed how family treasures such as this set of photographs can disappear into salerooms and ebay having been lost or discarded. I know that these photos came from a house clearance and so I assume Marjorie Sear is dead and there are no relatives who survive her and want to keep her memory alive. How many more marvellous documents of social and personal history have been lost for all time?
You can see the full set of photographs of Marjorie and her friends in this flickr album.
So two people who have read Alchemists of Time have approached me and asked me a question along the lines of “Character X died in one chapter but in a later chapter Character X is alive. How can this be? Did you make a mistake when you wrote the book?”
I admit I was somewhat taken aback by the questions as I thought everyone was aware of time paradoxes and the possible outcomes. It’s not my place to explain these here, nor do I have the space, but if anyone wants a good summary of the possibilities then take a look at 5 Bizarre Paradoxes of Time Travel for instance. The granddaddy of all time travel paradox stories is A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury which explains how making a small change in the past can radically alter the future. In his story a visitor to the past steps off the special platform he is supposed to stay on and when he comes back to his present everything is different. Only then does he discover the butterfly he squashed under his boot. This is often referred to as The Butterfly Effect and is different to the scientific version of the Butterfly Effect proposed by Edward Lorenz. However, both the literary and scientific versions of the Butterfly Effect share the idea that a very small change in one environment can lead to a massive change elsewhere in the system in the longer term.
As I discussed in the previous post I changed the title of my new novel to Alchemists of Time after I had written it. Time travel features in the book as does alchemy so it made sense and was more descriptive than my working title Heretics. Alchemy can be understood on many different levels. A popular description of alchemy is that it is a quest to turn base metal into gold. At a higher level though, and I’m simplifying, alchemy is also seeking a way to change a person’s spiritual path from one of debasement to one of enlightenment. My protagonists are left with no choice but to meddle with time but they do everything they can to minimise the damage they might cause by creating unintentional paradoxes. They practice real alchemy but also their approach to dealing with time paradoxes are alchemical in nature – they want to achieve the best possible outcomes whilst causing the least possible harm to the fabric of time. Hence they are Alchemists of Time.
So yes, the fact that Character X is dead in one chapter and alive in another is intentional and comes about as a result of a time paradox. And that’s before we’ve even begun to discuss theories of possible worlds…..