For almost 25 years the University of Louisville Photographic Archives has chosen one graduating high school student from the Greater Louisville area to receive the Stern J. Bramson Award for Photographic Excellence. This year we had entries from 12 talented photographers, the most we have seen in a long time. The caliber of work was high and the decision was difficult. After much debate we got ourselves together and chose the winner of the $1000 prize. Unfortunately, we cannot let you know who it is until April 4th, when the participants will be notified themselves.
If you are interested in finding out who is the winning photographer, check the University of Louisville Photographic Archives Facebook page on April 4th. We’ll be announcing the photographer’s name sometime in the afternoon. In the meantime, here is a small selection from just half of the portfolios we received:
You can learn about Stern Bramson here and view his work by visiting the Photographic Archives at Ekstrom Library.
We have been through a long winter, and whether you are willing to believe that it is finally over or not, you have to concede that weather plays a large role in our lives. It affects our economic lives, our educational system, and even our emotional experiences. Since one of Archives and Special Collections’ central goals is to document the history and life of the Louisville area, it isn’t surprising that we hold a variety of weather-related materials.
One of our biggest weather-related collections is the National Weather Service, Louisville Station records.
These logbooks of daily observations chronicle Louisville’s weather (and the goings-on in the Weather Service office) from its earliest days in 1871 through 1983. They provide interesting, if sometimes minute, details that connect with our lives (“what was the weather like on my birthday in 1883?”), but they also tell a broader story about how we have engaged with our environment. For several years, Louisville’s observers were asked to report whether they could see the aurora borealis. However unlikely it seems that they would ever be able to give a positive report, these observations were intended to provide data to aid in our understanding of this phenomenon. There are also frequent reports of “fog” that limited visibility downtown in the 19th century – what we would probably call “smog.”
The logbooks and other collections also tell the stories of more dramatic weather events, including tornadoes and floods. For example, on March 27, 1890, a particularly deadly tornado – part of a larger outbreak in the region — swept through Louisville, causing millions of dollars in damages and killing 76 people. While this was noted in the Weather Service’s logbooks, like many catastrophic events, it was also of interest to people outside the region. This being the case, stereographs were produced showing the damage in 3-D (this was state-of-the-art in the late 19th century).
The “whirling tiger of the air” was also documented by other photographers. The much more recent – and similarly catastrophic – tornado outbreak of 1974 is not as well documented outside of the Weather Service logbooks, although we do have photographs and newspaper accounts.
In addition to tornadoes, life on the banks of the Ohio brings with it the constant threat of flooding, so it is not surprising that various floods are well-documented in ASC’s holdings. While the scope of the 1937 flood puts it in a different category, our collections reveal that floods were a recurring theme.
A search for “floods” in our Digital Collections pulls up nearly 1000 items, including..
…a postcard from a 1907 flood…
…Caufield and Shook photographs from 1924…
…Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) photographs from 1933…
…and images from the 2009 flash flood.
Given the devastation it caused, it is not surprising that the flood of 1937 is particularly well documented. Newspaper articles, photographs, postcards and maps were produced in the wake of the destruction. Some of this material – including maps of the floodwaters – is available in our Digital Collections. In addition, we have recently accessioned a series of 13 oral history interviews with flood survivors that were recorded in the early 1990s. These interviews tell the stories of people who ranged in age from ten to thirty-nine at the time of flood. Some of them had to flee the rising waters, moving in with family or friends, while others were able to stay and assist in the recovery efforts – or at least welcome friends and family into their homes. They all tell a personal story of life during the flood of 1937.
There is an old adage, “everyone complains about the weather but no one does anything about it.” While we can’t help you do anything to change the weather, we can help you put it in historical context.
While doing an inventory of the Photographic Archives storage area, we came across a surprising collection of glass stereo slides with a small box viewer depicting vivid scenes from World War I. I am well acquainted with paper card stereographs and often present them to student groups visiting the archive, asking if they ever imagined that 3-D technology was around over 150 years ago. But I had never before seen glass stereo photographs. The clarity in these three-dimensional images on glass is far beyond that of common paper-mounted card stereographs, so why do they seem so rare?
Stereography, early three-dimensional photography, was immensely popular in the latter half of the nineteenth century having been introduced in the 1850s and lasting into the 1930s. Stereograph photos, also known as stereoviews, stereograms, and stereopticons, were created with special cameras that had two lenses placed approximately two inches apart (the general distance between human eyes). These stereo cameras shot two nearly identical images on one negative that when printed and viewed through a stereoscope appear three dimensional.
Stereography was a common form of entertainment and news in the nineteenth century, with handheld viewers and stereograph sets found in most family parlors much like radios and televisions were in the twentieth century. Sets of stereographs showing far-away places in Europe, Asia and Africa were mass produced, as were sets depicting events like the Civil War and natural disasters such as the Louisville Tornado of 1890 and San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Being so affordable and accessible, stereography made foreign views and newsworthy imagery accessible to people of all classes.
The collection of glass stereoviews that we found in the archives consists of the wood box stereo viewer, approximately 100 glass slides each hand-labeled in French, and came with no information other than the name of the donor, Jon Kugelman, who gifted the items to the Photographic Archives in 1964. With some quick web research I have already run across a number of the same images that are in our collection. The photographs were likely shot by French photographer and stereographic inventor Jules Richard, and probably mass-produced and sold in the States by Brentano’s, a Parisian bookstore. It seems that glass stereographs were more popular in Europe than in the United States, which is why they are a bit rarer than paper mounted stereoviews.
The images in this collection show the realities of the Great War, including soldiers amid trenches, battlefield corpses, and bombed-out buildings. With the added feature of spatial relation, as well as the enhanced detail and light of the images on glass, these photographs vividly translate the destruction and horrors of war like I have never seen before.
Though best viewed through a stereoscope viewer, some animated gifs of stereographs can be found online and help convey the three-dimensionality of the photographs, like this image from a collection very similar to the Kugelman Collection in our archive.
Through photographs by Robert Doherty and James N. Keen
March 5, 1964
On March 5, 1964, close to 10,000 people from in and around Kentucky gathered at the state capitol for a peaceful civil rights demonstration which has become known as The March on Frankfort, one in a series of civil rights marches lead by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Allied Organization for Civil Rights (AOCR) coordinated this effort. Among its members were Officers Frank Stanley, Jr., editor of The Louisville Defender; Dr. Olof Anderson, Synod Executive of the Presbyterian Church; and a young Georgia Davis Powers. Powers, who later became the first African American and the first woman to be elected to the Kentucky State Senate in 1967, states this was the beginning of her civil rights activism.
Key speakers were Ralph Stanley, Jr.; the Rev. Dr. D. E. King, pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Louisville from 1946 until 1963; The Rev. Dr. Ralph David Abernathy, Martin Luther King, Jr’s close associate and friend; Jackie Robinson, major league baseball legend who broke the color barrier; and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Folk singers and civil rights activists Peter, Paul and Mary performed.
Robert Doherty founded the University of Louisville Photographic Archives while a professor in the Allen R. Hite Art Institute. Also an active photographer, Doherty documented Louisville scenes, political rallies and events, prominent Louisvillians, and important visitors to the city. His photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Louisville and at the 1964 march on Frankfort have frequently appeared in print. In 2010 Doherty received a Doctor of Fine Arts honoris causa degree from the University of Louisville.
James N. Keen was a photographer for the Chattanooga News, Dayton Journal-Herald, Associated Press, Acme Newspictures, and for twenty-six years, with the Louisville Courier-Journal and Louisville Times. His work appeared in Life and U.S. Camera Annual, and he won numerous national awards for photojournalism. His subjects include celebrities such as Martha Graham and Orville Wright, as well as political figures including Winston Churchill and several presidents. Keen also photographed local landmarks events such as the Kentucky Derby.
Governor Breathitt fought hard for the public accommodations bill. And although it was unsuccessful in 1964, in 1966 the Kentucky General Assembly passed the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. Dr. King called it “the strongest and most comprehensive civil rights bill passed by a Southern state.” The law prohibits discrimination in employment and public accommodations and empowers cities to enact local laws against housing discrimination. [A Kentucky Civil Rights Timeline, http://www.ket.org/civilrights/timeline.htm]
See the exhibit in the Photographic Archives Gallery, Lower Level Ekstrom Library, University of Louisville. Open Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
I recently cataloged a series of photographs in the Caufield & Shook Collection for the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Library that were commissioned by the Louisville Gas & Electric Company. Although the original intent of the photographs was to document property prior to tree removal, they also document when this area was primarily farmland rather than developed residential and commercial real estate.
Here’s what the intersection of Brownsboro Lane and Chamberlain Lane looked like then:
Here’s what the intersection of Brownsboro Lane and Chamberlain Lane look like now:
Click through these images to see more views of Worthington from 1928.
The office of Intramural & Recreational Sports donated 50 years’ worth of Intramurals champions boards to Archives & Special Collections beginning in 2012, along with funding to have the images stored in archival boxes, scanned, and cataloged. The images, arranged by year, are now available online within the UofL Images collection of University Libraries’ Digital Collections.
The enormous posters documenting fun aspects of student life had long been displayed along the walls of three Belknap Campus gyms, where alumni reportedly stopped by when on campus to point out their champions photos to children or grandchildren, but the renovations of two of those spaces, plus the sleek, glass-walled design of the new Student Recreation Center (opened in October 2013), meant these “memory lanes” would have to find a new home. One of the functions of Archives & Special Collections (ASC) is to serve as the memory of the university, so this partnership was the perfect solution. Intramural & Recreational Sports plans to provide access to the collection via a kiosk in the new Recreation Center.
The sports range from trends (Wallyball tournaments in the 1990s give way to Fantasy Football) to timeless classics (running and swimming); from individual achievements (bodybuilding) to team efforts (basketball, baseball, soccer); from indoor recreation (such as billiards) to outdoor fun (a springtime Putt Putt Golf excursion). Hairstyles and athletic wear also went through many changes during the five decades the posters were produced, but the individual and school pride and teambuilding instilled by the activities shows through across the board(s).
I’m ready for my close-up, or, one of the reasons I love working with high resolution scans from large format negativesPosted: November 27, 2013
Part of my job includes cataloging images from the University of Louisville’s extensive photograph collection. I’m currently working on the Caufield & Shook collection. In the 1920s, the Caufield & Shook photographers captured images of Louisville on a large-format camera that produced 8 x 10 in negatives. We scan the negatives at a high resolution which reveals details not immediately visible in the original. I’ve been zooming in and capturing some of the faces that returned the gaze of the giant camera pointed in their direction. The photographs below are close-ups and you can click on the links to see the full sized images. See if you can locate the faces looking back at you.
This is the first close-up I noticed when I started cataloging the collection. I was mesmerized and began collecting close-ups as I worked through the images. We believe this man worked at the Komstohk Candy Co. next door to the Marion E. Taylor building.
Children on the playground of the George Prentice school.
Although ostensibly just a photograph of the Mammoth Life Insurance building, this close-up revealed an image of the Louisville Leader office as well. Follow the Leader link to images of the newspaper and find information about how you can help transcribe pages for the digital collection.
Workers in the Campbell Company tobacco factory.
Woman looking out a window near railroad tracks on Frankfort Avenue.
On November 6, Archives and Special Collections opens its latest exhibit, “All Aboard!” We are celebrating our L&N Railroad collections — the Photographic Archives collection of L&N photographs (including glass negatives), Rare Books’ early railroad publications, and University Archives’ L&N Railroad Company records. For the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of going through these materials looking for photographs, documents, maps, menus, timetables… all sorts of items that will help tell the story of the L&N.
I was already familiar with the L&N collections, since these records are frequently used by academic historians, community researchers, and train modelers. But preparing this exhibit helped me see it in a whole new way. First, it made me appreciate the tremendous variety and quality of photographs in this collection. As you would expect, there are many pictures of trains – interiors, exteriors, loaded freight cars, locomotives — you name it, and there is a picture of it.
Among my favorites are several shots of workers on and around the locomotives, as in this image of locomotive number 209 in Decatur, Alabama, taken around 1915.
The photographs sometimes include sweet surprises, as with this image of the of Ringling Brother-Barnum and Bailey circus train. If you look closely, you can see elephants reaching their trunks out of the car:
Working with the L&N Magazine has also been a special treat. In addition to stories on different cities, it ran features on the different types of freight carried by the railroad: the L&N shipped everything from bananas, peanuts and other types of produce, to coal (lots of coal!), to appliances, to special shipments including “Iron Lungs” and race horses.
The magazine also featured photographs of company sports teams, and shared information about different employees’ hobbies and family events including weddings. It warned workers of possible threats to their safety and their health, including alcoholism and heart attacks. It also profiled employees, departments, and services, helping promote a wider understanding of the tremendous variety of activities going on within this large and multi-faceted organization.
All Aboard! runs through February 7, 2014. Archives and Special Collections is open Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; we are having a special Sunday showing of the exhibit on Sunday, November 10, from noon to 5:00 p.m.
Card photographs were as ubiquitous in the second half of the nineteenth century as camera phone and Instagram images are today. Primarily albumen prints mounted on card stock, card photos varied in several sizes. First came the carte de visite, French for “visiting card,” in the 1860s. Measuring 2½ x 4 inches, cartes de visite, or CDVs for short, took America by storm and created the world’s first photography craze. For the first time since the introduction of photography in 1839, portrait photographs were available to all classes as they were cheap to make, could be easily copied and sent through the mail without threat of damage. In fact, so many CDVs were sent through the mail as men were off fighting the Civil War, that the US government put a tax on them to help fund the war.
Cabinet cards were a larger version of the CDV, measuring 4¼ by 6½ inches and became very popular after 1870. The larger size allowed for greater decoration of the card mounts which advertised the photographer’s name and address. Gradually the mount designs, known as backmarks, grew larger and more ornate, often including many decorative elements common to Victorian design. Popular motifs included painter’s palettes and brushes with cameras to imply the association of photography with fine art, and the sun to symbolize the photographer’s dependence on light. Gilded borders, scalloped edges, colorful mounts and inks, patterned backgrounds, and highly stylized typography all appeared on the mounts of cartes de visite and cabinet card photographs. Some photographers hired artists to create original designs for their card mounts, but the majority chose designs from catalogs of photo supply companies. As a result, many studios from around the country produced card photographs with similar mount designs and backmarks.
Card photographs orphaned by their original owners and descendants that can today be found in thrift stores and flea markets may no longer hold the identity of the person pictured, but they can still be admired for their beauty and what they reveal about larger trends in Victorian culture, photography and graphic design. To see many more nineteenth century card photographs created in Louisville, visit the exhibit “Under the Skylight: Louisville’s Nineteenth Century Portrait Studios” in the Photographic Archives gallery from October 10 – November 1.
The only problem being the Imaging Manager in the Photographic Archives is the urge to know every photograph and fine print in our vault. That’s about 2 million images and, I guess, a bit impossible. Even if I could look through every image, I cannot look without wondering. It’s easy to spend a good thirty minutes observing one photo and asking what may be going on in the scene:
Is that man in the white suit looking straight at the camera? Where is the photographer standing? Why did he take a photo of this scene? What’s in that caged truck? What is going on with that traffic pattern?! How common was it to still be using a horse and cart? What is being constructed? How many of those buildings are still here? Arg, so many questions! But that last question, that’s one I can easily determine. When I run across an interesting photograph of a building or space in Louisville, I search Google maps, pick out a camera, go on a little adventure, and have some Photoshop fun:
This exercise in photography, research, and navigation works to expand my knowledge of our collection and its relevance to Louisville’s history. And it answers a few of those burning questions along the way!