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Picturing a World

Stilts

In tidying my computer desktop and folders, I ran across this image of farmworkers on stilts in Kent. I saved it from a Spitalfields Life post on the photographer William Whiffin (1878–1957). Most of Whiffin's work depicts London's East End and other locations (some of it very atmospheric), but it was the stilts that grabbed my fancy.

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Daguerreotypist

A man goes into a boarding house … The lead-in to a joke? a short story idea? Research led me to a Tennessee landlady in 1850 and her boarders: a lawyer, a doctor, a music teacher, a minister with his wife and child, and a daguerreotypist. A daguerreotypist! Marvelous! There were nineteen daguerreotypists in the whole state at the time. I can't learn any more about mine, but a search turned up this image at the Getty, which certainly could supply a character and a flavor to—no, not a joke (not with that intense stare). Maybe a ghost story? How about an historical murder mystery?

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A character, a character!

I took this image from a Sketch by Sketch blog post, which gives no source and no date for it. For my purposes, that doesn't matter. I don't even need confirmation that this really is Nell Brinkley. What electrified me when I saw it was the way it feeds into a character I have invented for my work-in-progress: a young, talented, ambitious, and reckless writer. I've given her Willa Cather's dedication to her work combined with Edna St. Vincent Millay's dangerous boozing and partying. This image gives me a face, an expression, and maybe the hair to spark a visualization. Or maybe she'll suggest a giddy, funny friend. I don't know yet, but hurrah for anything that sparks imagination!

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Path onward and over

I generally avoid posting photographs because of copyright issues, but Roger Kidd kindly includes the acknowledgment he requires for a Creative Commons reuse, and I do love this picture as an emblem for writing fiction, for facing an uncertain future in the new year, and for the power of nature. The tree is magnificent, and, look, that green, green path leads over an unseen canal. What could be more out there and yet more mysterious? Read More 

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Norah Smyth, photographer

Blog tip: Votes for women on both sides of the pond! A post on the English photographer, Norah Smyth, fits well on an American election day when women need to get out and exercise the right our foremothers won for us. And Smyth’s pictures of East Enders instead of the rich and famous should inspire us all to remember that ordinary people matter and can change the world for the better. Read More 

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Käsebier’s Sketch

Although “Anonymity” is stalled at the moment (I’m writing an unrelated novella), images that belong to my heroine Mattie’s world draw me back into it. Both the beauty of this photograph and the earnestness of the artist would, I think, appeal to a wistfully idealistic side of Mattie. Although she works in the pulp end of publishing, she also fosters young talent and encourages writers and artists to strive for their best. Read More 

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Smith College art class

And now back to school! Early in my research on women’s art education, I  Read More 

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Women in the East End, Londo

Blog tip: Check out two photographic blog posts at Spitalsfield Life. Together they offer countless visual details and suggest scores of stories. Women of the Old East End publishes carte-de-visites of women from the 1860’s to 1940. I’ve chosen this girl with her  Read More 
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Atget carts

Follow-up: After the mention of Atget in yesterday’s post, I took another look at some of his work and came across this image at the Princeton University Art Museum. No wheelbarrow or handcart, but good horse-drawn carts!
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Suffrage with a smile

After rereading a couple of chapters of ANONYMITY, my work-in-progress, I took a break by Googling images related to women's suffrage. This one popped up without any documentation, but for my purposes, that didn't matter. What I love are the candid smiles and sense of motion. Just what I need to make me feel I'm back in a living, breathing time. Read More 
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