Vintage Snapshots

the wondrous world of vernacular photography

Month: September, 2011

Hungry Bears

Vintage photograph of black bears begging for  food from automobile

Black bear w/ cub in search of a handout – or trying to steal a car

Vintage photos of bears begging for food from cars in parks like Yellowstone are fairly common. The practice seems to have started surprisingly early on, according to a site dealing with the history of such things at Yellowstone: “In 1910, the first accounts of black bears begging for human food handouts along park roads were reported. By the 1920s roadside ‘panhandling’ by black bears for human food handouts was common… As park visitation and the number of bear-human conflicts began to increase, park managers became more concerned with the situation. Between 1931 and 1959, an average of 48 park visitors were injured by bears and an average of 138 cases of bear-caused property damage were reported each year.”

This shot shows what may have been a sort of training session, with the mother observing as the little one is unable to even reach the window. The photographer seems to have been not that fearful, as he/she was a little over half a car-length from the action…perhaps unaware that about 48 people would be mauled that year. (Wildlife photographer Harry Morse, who visited Yellowstone during that era, remarks that “As a child I thought it was great that bears begged for food along the roads of Yellowstone. Park officials kept a lid on the annual number of people getting mauled and when it happened you didn’t hear about it.”) The practice is, of course, now banned – along with just about everything else in today’s world. Here is a nice color shot from National Geographic showing a couple of bears being photographed by onlookers.


Double Exposure

Double exposed photo of a boy in a baseball uniform

Tupperware baseball boy, 1954

A double exposure is not an uncommon thing to run across in old photos. I suppose you can do them with a digital camera(?) – and of course they can be made in Photoshop with ease. But nothing compares to the magic of an accidental one. So as film is used less and less, I guess double exposures could be considered a real endangered species. This is one I really like.

The Cat on the Shoulder

Vintage photo of a cat latching on to a man's shoulder.

Cat latching on for dear life, likely 1920s

There must be literally millions of snapshots of people with their dogs, but you see far fewer of cats. Felines were still a popular subject, though, and for obvious reasons you see them being held in some fashion by their owners more often than with dogs. Here are a couple (the second being a detail of a larger photo — in the full shot the cat is a little too small to really see well). Personally my cat likes to sit on my shoulder (I have held – and carried – him that way since finding him abandoned in the street at about 3 weeks of age, so he is used to it), but not all take so kindly to such a perch.

Vintage snapshot of woman with a cat on her shoulder.

Woman holding young cat, likely 1920s

%d bloggers like this: