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.
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?
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.
I recently acquired a set of photographs which all seem to be of a Leeds based family. Many of them note the identity of the subjects on the reverse of the photograph. The person who owned the photographs and made the notes was a woman. We never see her own name but let’s call her Dana. On some of the photographs featuring groups of people she has marked the identity of certain group members with an “X.” It seems an odd thing to do because it spoils the photographs but it makes it easier to at least identify the relationships in this family.
In the photograph above she uses Xs to identify a woman with a child on her knee and the man standing behind her. It’s difficult to see the “Xs” at this resolution but there are bigger versions in the Flickr album I’ve created of the whole collection. This couple must be the Dana’s parents as she tells us on the reverse “My mam with me on her knee Dad on the back row.”
Here’s another example of how Dana tells us that this is “My grandma with X on her chest.”
Betty appears three times, once with Marjorie at Batley. Betty’s surname is given as “Raynor” on one of the photos. Is she Dana’s sister?
Marjorie appears three times, once with Betty. Note there’s an “X” again to identify Marjorie in the group photo.
The family dogs are not forgotten – here we see Dinkie, Rinty and Blackie.
Here are Cousin Dorothy and Auntie Florence.
I was hoping one of these gentlemen would turn out to be Dana’s father but she’s written on the back “John’s Father with his workmates from Yorkshire Copper Works.” There’s no clue as to who John is so it doesn’t help. Nevertheless the newspaper clipping provides fascinating detail.
Overall the collection illustrates some of the frustrations of collecting old photographs. Clearly there are intriguing stories behind them but nothing to definitively identify the subjects. From the notes and photography studio stamps we can place them in and around Leeds. Otherwise we can only be grateful for Dana’s “X”s to at least show some of the relationships.