Online event: BagNewsSalon – March 20 – Assignment Egypt

BagNewsSalon - Assignment Egypt

BagNews is one of my favorite places online for thoughtful (sometimes snarky) analysis of news photography as it is used. They’ve been growing over the years, producing original photography and award-winning videos and generally being a can’t-miss stop if you’re interested in contemporary visual journalism. A periodic feature of the site is BagNewsSalon, online roundtable discussions about photography with photographers, editors, professors, and anyone who wants to watch, listen, and ask questions. On March 20, there’ll be another such event, Assignment Egypt, in which key images of recent coverage of Egypt will be discussed, dissected, and deconstructed, by photographers who were there and thoughtful members of the larger photographic community. Put this one on your calendars.

Historical analysis of photos: a lesson in determining time and date of vintage photography

Determining the date of historical photos

All the shadows in the picture-those of Mr. Top-Hat-and-Tails, his dead horse, the buildings, and the man with his dog-stretch directly across the street. Since S. 8th St. (then Griffith St.) runs north-south, the shadows point almost exactly east-west. There are only two days in the year when this occurs, the Spring Equinox (March 19-20) and the Fall Equinox (September 22-23). On these two occasions, the night and day are of equal length everywhere on earth, as the sun rises due east and sets due west. On other dates, the sun rises either north or south of east and sets either north or south of west, as the days become longer or shorter and the seasons change. Considering a top hat and tails are not the appropriate attire for Sheboygan in March when the average temperature is about 32°F, the date the picture must have been September 22-23.

I don’t know how I found this document a few years ago, but the previous post jogged my memory. Historical analysis of photography fascinates me. Errol Morris’ recent investigative blogging about photography for the New York Times is a prime example. In A Dead Horse of a Different Color by Colleen Fitzpatrick and Andrew Yeiser (PDF), we get a similar walkthrough of the process of determining the facts behind a photograph, in this case, the exact time and date of a photo from 1871. By analyzing shadows and investigating the history of photographic lenses and cameras and researching the history of railroads in Wisconsin, the researchers determined that the photo was likely taken September 24, 1871 at 4:30 pm by either Wolfgang Morganeier or his two apprentices, George and Edward Groh.

And if you’re into this sort of thing, there are weekly photo quizzes at Forensic Genealogy.

(I linked to this in the previous post, but felt it should be a post of its own…)

Time traveler spotted in 1940s era photo?

“Reopening of the South Fork Bridge after flood in Nov. 1940. 1941 (?)”

This has been around for a couple of days, but I just saw it today. While poking around the photo galleries at a Canadian museum’s website, somebody noticed a man whose clothing and camera look conspicuously out of place for a scene from the 1940s. A time traveler! Look at his shirt, which looks like a modern logo stamped on a t-shirt; look at his jacket, which looks like a hoodie; look at his camera, which doesn’t look like a big bulky press camera (nevermind the Brownie or early Leicas); look at how everyone else is dressed so differently; look at the glasses, which look like our current styles! Likely not a time traveler, of course. The sweater seems to be pretty standard (see the guy on the right here), the glasses are protective gear, the camera could easily be any of the compact cameras available at the time, etc. If nothing else, it’s a great exercise in historical forensic analysis of photographs (PDF).