Friday, November 13, 2009

Where I bore you with historical stuff and shiny objects

These are digital surrogates of some very cool photos. Taken back in the mid-1930s by Luis Marquez. He enlarged and hand-tinted each of the photographs. When you look at the originals you can actually see the paint.

Kodak developed kodachrome and kodacolor film in 1935 and 1942 receptively and AGFA developed a color film in 1936. Unfortunately or fortunately for us, Luiz would not have had access to any of these. Color film was not in use in Mexico until somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 years later.

Luis Marquez was one of a very few Mexican photographers. He also turned out to be one of the more famous ones. Probably because he was very talented.

Though staged these photographs represent aspects of Mexican life and spirituality. You can tell they are staged because if that woman had been walking around without shoes on, her feet would have been dirty. Turns out that Luis was something of a control freak. He collected the costumes for the models to wear, told the models which outfits to wear, and gave them the props and told them how to hold them.

Luis then gave copies of these photographs to the wife of the Texas State Governor, Mr. Allred. Mounted in a tooled leather case. Now, I could chide him for his use of leather as a binding but this would seem a tad bit stupid. One, the guy is dead. Dead people just don't listen real well. Or if they do you can't tell. They just lay there all dead-like. Two, very few people had concerns about animal cruelty and vegetarianism and stuff like that back then.

He gave the photos to the Governor's wife in an attempt to interest them in sponsoring his works. He was looking to get the photos made into postcards. If you have been reading this blog for any length of time you will know that postcards were very popular back in the early 20th century. They were purchased to be mailed to friends and family. They were also highly collected.

By having some of his photographs made into postcards and distributed cheaply Luis would have been able to make a name for himself. Great idea. Too bad it didn't quite work about that way. Or at least, not when it came to the Allreds. They turned out to be totally unhelpful. I'm not sure why. Most likely it didn't fit in with their life plan.

Four of his photos appeared in the May 1937 edition of National Geographic. Which would have been a coup. He also was published in a few other books and guides in the 1950s.

Soon color film made it's way to Mexico and Luis was right there to greet it. Making him progressive and controlling all at the same time. But these personality quirks didn't take away from the grandiose imagery and beautiful colors he achieved in these photographs. Perhaps it helped. His exacting nature makes these more than just snapshots of everyday life but brings them into the realm of still-lifes.

Think of the artistry of not only the composition but the hand painting of these photographs. This guy was incredible and very few people know of him or his work. I didn't until we came across these buried in a box with a whole bunch of the late Governor's things. Then I just had to find out more. It's the plight of a librarian. To always try to find out more.

So there, you made it to the end. You can wake up and take your head off your desks. Please file out quietly.

I'm going to call this my spin for this week. It sort of epitomizes the types of posts I do. Plus, Jen is giving us a free-for-all spin this week and I'm nothing if not opportunistic. She has links of others that are participating. Check them out here.



  1. Michele, this post was anything but boring - it was downright fascinating. And those photographs are incredible, and gorgeous.

    Also, you crack me up. "Dead people just don't listen real well. Or if they do you can't tell. They just lay there all dead-like."

  2. Those are incredible! When I enlarged them, I could see his signature on there too. You find some fascinating things and I love that you share them!

  3. Wonderful! Love these. Thank you so much for taking the time to give us such an insightful and inspiring art/history lesson. This is why I love the blogosphere!

  4. Wow, those are really interesting. I mean, the whole staging thing runs counter to current trends in photography. But it really is a whole different artistic endeavor. And the images--especially the first two--look almost like icons. Cool, librarian lady!

    Can I eat in here?

  5. I find this so interesting! My dad has an old Minolta that is older than me and I used to love playing with it for black and white photos. These pictures are beautiful. You're linked!

  6. Wow, the hand tinting is amazing - especially when you look at all the cool details on that dress and shoes with all the little flowers on them.

  7. I really enjoyed these photos! I really enjoyed this post. Posts like this make me understand how wonderful blog world really is...we get to learn new things all the time.


  8. Those are beautiful! He really did have talent. And I thought this was great. I wish he had gotten into post cards. I am somewhat of a collector and would have loved some of these.

  9. I'd love to wear that headdress to work. If somebody got uppity with me I'd pull out the maracas.

  10. Very interesting. Beautiful pics.

  11. I love the one of the woman holding the blankets, standing with her eyes closed Incredible

  12. You didn't bore me. I love history and I am so impressed with the photography/painting. They are beautiful.

  13. I love the history lessons.

    Beautiful photos.

  14. Fascinating history lesson and beautiful photos. I really love the one with the woman (or perhaps more like girl) holding the blankets and looking upward.
    I love it when you 'bore us' with historical stuff. Part of the only learning I get all week. :)

    Plus you live the life I romanticize...a librarian. sigh. Keep on trying to educate us.

  15. You can bore me any day of the week, that was a cool post! I love seeing stuff like that, you know that.

  16. Boring? I think not. What an amazing collection of photographs. Thanks for sharing.