MOTOMACHI STREET IN KOBE — Preventing ROAD RAGE in OLD JAPAN

Check out these stamp collector images:

MOTOMACHI STREET IN KOBE — Preventing ROAD RAGE in OLD JAPAN
stamp collector
Image by Okinawa Soba (On the Road for a While)
This is a standard Meiji-era postcard from ca.1905-12. Call it 100 years old.

There were tons of these made, usually printed by the labor-intensive collotype method, and hand tinted using both stencils and free-hand applications of color.

The above photo depicts a slow day in Kobe, but the police have prepared for the occasional onslaught of tourists as they come off the cruise ships. For those busy days when it seems like every ‘rickshaw in Kobe is converging on Motomachi, they have posted a "NOTICE" sign seen to the very right of the image — the fine print supposedly able to work its magic in controlling the crowds.

Here is what it says :

NOTICE

PEDESTRIANS ARE REQUESTED TO KEEP TO THE LEFT HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD.

VEHICLES OF ALL DESCRIPTIONS AND CATTLE MUST KEEP AS FAR AS POSSIBLE TO THE CENTER OF THE ROAD AND PASS EACH OTHER ON THE LEFT

I’m sure (?) that every ‘rickshaw driver and farmer with his bull-cart will notice those directions in fine print, and comply forthwith to the safe passage of all.

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A NOTE TO YOUNG PEOPLE WHO SOMEDAY HOPE TO BE CURATORS OF OLD PHOTO ARCHIVES IN STATELY MUSEUMS AND RESPECTABLE INSTITUTIONS :

When it comes to old photographs, most of the world’s great collections are watched over by very talented Curators, Archivists and Managers. Usually they are interesting and capable folks who have a love of the arts and history in general, and odd and eclectic things in specific. The are the guardians of a relatively short 170 year span of history as captured through the lenses of a diverse spectrum known and unknown photographers. Hopefully (and naturally) you will follow in their footsteps with a love of all things photographic.

Almost all of these good folks I just mentioned are delighted by a nice image captured on an old postcard. However…on rare occasions, you will come across the odd Curator who for reasons unknown harbors an inordinate prejudice for any photograph that has a place reserved for a postage stamp on the back.

I will now talk about these odd exceptions to the normal crowd of professionals, with the intention that you will be inoculated against becoming like one of them.

There are a few self-proclaimed "seasoned and serious" collectors, archivists, and curators out there in the world who diss these nice old postcards because they are not "true,19th Century photographic silver prints" — and then they wonder why they can’t identify any of the same scenes in their caption-less, 19th Century "works of art" which they treat as sacred objects. These curators are like animists who pray to rocks and trees, but have no clue what the name of the tree is, or whether the stone is schist, shale, or slag.

Don’t be like them. If you are going to collect or curate, understand the contribution of all images from every process. For example, having a key set of identified lowly halftones made in the 20th century might just come in handy when you come up with older, unidentified images in your collection taken in the 19th century that — surprise surprise — are a match to your identified halftones printed on cheap newsprint..

If your institution collects or specializes in certain images from a certain time and place, remember to collect peripheral images and ephemera of "lessor worth" that has attached information (such as the above postcard). Remembering simple things like this will save your curatorial ass when the rest of the world comes crashing down.

The above street scene is a simple, penny postcard. But, never fail to understand that some of the most important events, and even artistic photographic works from old Japan and the rest of the world exist only in postcard format. Postcards are not only a great source of photographic information, but a great guide to unlocking many otherwise unidentified locations found in earlier albumen prints, lantern-slides, and stereoviews. Such material should augment any serious collection of the older, "classic" images.

I have rubbed shoulders with some of these "anti-postcard" folks at Old Photo Shows, and wondered how they ever got hired by the museums and institutions they worked for.

My advice to these astute collectors : While continuing to patronize the "high-end dealers" of the early, rare, and desirable works of photographic history and art, also patronize the tables at the local postcard and ephemera shows. Spend time collecting some of these "unworthy" postcards — especially the ones with helpful captions — so you know what the hell your un-captioned "sacred albumen photographs" really depict !

And again, on a repetitions final note, some extremely beautiful works of photographic art, as well as scenes of important historic and documentary value exist today only in the postcard format. Never look down your nose at such things, because, to the degree that you do, that is the degree that you diminish the heart, soul, and unique personality of the collection under your care.

RANDOM SOBA : www.flickriver.com/photos/24443965@N08/random/

Remember these?
stamp collector
Image by dok1
I photographed the sign when I visited a collector in Lucasville, Ohio. For anyone who doesn’t remember: Top Value stamps were a type of trading stamp. They were given out as incentives at grocery stores and gas stations. You could fill up books with them and trade them in for gifts and prizes. They supplied colorful catalogs and you picked up the merchandise at a Top Value showroom.
Radio comercial:

www.oldtimeradiofans.com/old_radio_commercials/top_value_…

Building foundation, St. Thomas
stamp collector
Image by slgwv
St. Thomas is an unusual Nevada ghost town. It was a small Mormon farming community in southern Nevada that lay in the path of Lake Mead, the reservoir formed by Boulder (later Hoover) Dam. The government bought out all the property owners in the mid-1930s and the rising waters covered the site by the late ’30s. The last resident, the postmaster (IIRC) rowed away on June 11, 1938 after flinging the postage canceling stamp out into the lake. Those last St. Thomas cancellations are now collectors’ items.

With Lake Mead’s current low level due to the drought on the Colorado River system, the site of St. Thomas is exposed–old weathered concrete foundations amongst a rank growth of tamarisk. The Park Service has an interpretive trail out there. All artifacts, of course, are protected.

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