Friday, April 11, 2014

Photo Friday: In Praise of A.T. Burke Edition

Good morning!

We made it to Friday! And you know what that means-- I've scanned and screened tons of pictures on Flickriver to bring you the best of other-people's-family photos. And do we, AGAIN, have a doozy of a photo goldmine today? WE DO! A.T. Burke is a 94 year old flickr member who has uploaded dozens of photos from his collection of Kodachrome slides. Quite the prolific amateur photographer, his slides and prints span fifty years, but focus mainly on the post-war to Kennedy era portion of his life as a newlywed and then a family man.


This photo about knocked my eye out for how crisp and gorgeous the colors, not to mention the GIRLS IN THE PHOTO look like they just stepped off the sound lot of some Metro musical. The flickr entry features a long essay of a caption by Burke on the strength and character of the four childhood friends in the wedding party above. From said essay:
As both a compliment to the then-young ladies shown in the old Kodachrome, and a voice of concern for America’s future, I ask the question, “Who will replace these people?” I’m sure as Betty passed away, a new baby was born. That child will eat the food that Betty will not and breathe the air that Betty can no longer. That’s just the cycle of life and the way it always will be. Sadly, that child will never see, nor be part of, anything like the Kodachrome Era. It seems like America is just not replacing “Bettys” of like quality and caliber. Our children, grandchildren, and our grandchildren’s children will have to live with the results.

I treasure this old photo. It still has the clarity, color, look and feel that can make an old man look back to yesterday. I’m glad it wasn’t digital, as it would be long ago corrupted. My memory fades, but the Kodachrome does not
There is something that is putting a hitch in my poor little heart thinking of this 94 year old man looking back at his life through a series of eye-popping Kodachromes and other vintage format film stocks. Some are better quality in terms of clarity than others, but on color alone, just WOW. WOW. WOW.

This photo is captioned:
The doting grandmother had taken the train from Los Angeles to San Diego for the boy’s 6th grade graduation. I took the picture. She was my mother-in-law. The boy could not have asked for a nicer, kinder and more generous grandmother. Yet, as she did so much for him, she did it in a way that did not tend to spoil a child nor give him a sense of entitlement. She also instilled high standards in him through example and leadership. What a woman! 
She's the pretty auburn haired bride's mom...look at the resemblance and how perfect both of their clothes are. It's amazing how a) the 12 year old boy looks like a full grown man in his dress clothes and b) how the depth of focus continues far into the background, where the people thirty feet away are as clear as if you were standing there today squinting at them.

Speaking of perfect clothes, though:

The wife again with a friend. Doesn't the friend's dress look like something you would see on Trashy Diva's reproduction swing dresses website right now? I would wear either of these outfits exactly as is. How about that skinny little sapling in the background, too? I can remember in middle school my parents planted some similarly twiggy little maples in the back yard that are now so solid and tall it's hard to think I'm old enough to remember when you could have bent them over with your two hands!

Everything about this birthday party slide is amazing. I guess it was a joint party for a few of the children, or the mother was really into baking cakes. Look at the beautiful, crisply colorful tablecloth, the little boy with the Greek-mosaic-esque fish print on his adult-styled shirt, and the little girl on the right's adorable playsuit. One of the things that is so appealing about Kodachrome's clarity, as I said in the 6th grade graduation photo, is that feeling that you could just walk into the frame. Like Don Draper's famous Carousel speech (as I start openly weeping just thinking about it), it isn't a print, it's a time machine. While a similar photo in black and white, or even in a lesser quality color stock, would be fine, there's something almost magic to the even-better-than-real-life representation of a moment that passed sixty years ago.

Another interesting thing? The strange, neon pink nebulas that appear in some of these slides. No, it's not proof certain of extraterrestrial life...rather, some fluke of the processing or deterioration of the negative. I think they look strangely on purpose, though, in their placement, and pretty as geodes.

"Posed shot for one of the gal's husband who thought he was quite the ladies' man"

"These five gals had been friends from grammer school in the 1920s" Check out the different shades of red on each girl's lipstick.

"USNA 1963 Kodachrome's got the blues." Did you notice the Naval Academy marching in the background or where you too distracted by how great the mother's outfit (gloves, dress, purse, kooky sunglasses) is?

"Mission Blvd, San Diego, CA just after WWII"...notice the loose cut of the suit, the pearls and white lace blouse underneath, her lapel pin, and THAT HAT, how prettily it blends in with her hair in terms of texture.

"November 1944 just off campus near the USNAHer fur coat and that little baby! I'm going to make it my life's work this weekend to figure out how to wear a fashion turban without looking like I just stepped out of the it the shape of my head? Am I doing something wrong when I tie it? Rosalind Russell, Lana Turner, and my friend Emma look so pretty in one, I want to join that group of stylish women!

This last, AMAZING photo is only captioned as follows:
 Ansco film in a Kodachrome cardboard mount. Even when Kodak was a real company they made mistakes. They processed my Anscochrome film right but somehow placed the slides in their Kodachrome mounts.
There are some interesting stereotach still life photos on the flickr stream, too-- just the fact that the image is doubled is cool, of course, but some of the ones of cacti and flora in the Southwest are really framable. While I don't know enough about the mechanics of photography and film development to appreciate a lot of the captions Burke has placed on the specifics of how the photos were taken, I'm impressed that he included this information in a lot of the captions.

So! Which of these is your favorite? Are you not bowled over by the beauty of Kodachrome film stock? Check out more of A.T. Burke's slides here, and comment on them if you like them! It looks like he actually does check and respond to questions with some regularity, in spite of saying his age and health might keep him from it in his captions. I enjoyed these pictures SO MUCH.

Well! That's all for this week. Have yourselves a fantastic weekend, and I will see you back here on Monday! Take care, and find good stuff! Til then.


  1. I got lost in a colorful era, thanks for sharing.

  2. I love all of them but the wedding photo is my favorite! Thanks so much for sharing this :)



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