YESTERDAY'S TOWNS

HOWDY, MY NAME IS BILL STRONG, I'LL BE YOUR "24 HOUR MAN", ROUTING YOU INTO THE PAST TO SEE WHAT THE CIRCUS WAS IN DAYS GONE BY. IF YOU'RE LIKE ME, AND MISS WHAT IT USED TO BE, THEN COME ON ALONG AS WE GO DOWN THE ROAD FOLLOWING THE ARROWS BACKWARDS, TO "YESTERDAY'S TOWNS"! IF YOU HAVE CIRCUS RELATED PICTURES YOU WOULD LIKE POSTED, SEND THEM TO,,,,yesterday1@verizon.net,,,,AND WE WILL TRY TO FIT THEM IN. "24 HOUR MAN" WILL HAVE THE FINAL DECISION ON POSTING.

My Photo
Name:
Location: GIBSONTON, FLORIDA, United States

Three years at CWM made me a real traditionalist, and I keep remembering Bob Parkinson saying, "I want the people to see what the circus used to be, not what it is today. That's what this site is about!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

FROM KATHY NELSON: SNAPSHOTS FROM THE NELSON COLLECTION

These photos are from the private collection of Paul Nelson's mother.

UNIDENTIFIED HIGH SCHOOL RIDER, SELLS-FLOTO CIRCUS.All of the photos in the group are identified & dated,(in Mrs. Nelson's hand), except this one. Could be because it is her, maybe Kathy can clear it up. The amazing thing is, they are in pristine condition, I'm sure they haven't been stored in Florida.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Bill: I am sure all of these photos were taken in Southern California by a photographer named Quillen. I have actually made prints from the original Quillen negative of the Kassnio Midgets included in this group. The proportions of the photos are a dead give-away, as Quillen used an unusual sized negative that was approximately 3x5" or very close to standard postcard size. Although I don't know much about Quillen's life and career, he must have been a professional photographer who was quite a circus fan as well. I surmise that he would go to lots and take hundreds of photos of performers in the backyard. Then he must have gone back to his studio and made "contact prints" the exact size of the negatives and then perhaps returned to the shows to sell(?) them to the performers. He was the west coast equivalent of Edward Kelty and Harry Atwell, but has never gained the recognition that they have. From all of the work that I've seen of his, he really was an amazing documentary photographer. Every image that I have seen is absolutely clear with superb detail and contrast. He seems to have only been interested in the performers, as there are virtually no shots of equipment or animals unless they happen to be behind or part of his portrait compositions. I take that back, I have seen one image of the Zacchini Cannon in the backyard of a show that was shot more like a portrait of the apparatus than anything. I know that he did hand-coloring or tinting to some of his photographs, which must have been specially done for specific performers. I have one of his hand-colored enalargements of Bobbie Peck and another rider waiting for spec in American-themed costumes and his hand-coloring is technically amazing. Hand-coloring photographs is a distinctive art all it's own and Quillen was certainly a master of this craft. His coloring was done with thinned oil paints and he must have used the tiniest of brushes, as the detail in his work is unsurpassed. His photo printing technique was also exquisite, as his prints that I have examined are in absolutely pristine condition after some 65 to 85 years have passed. It is a testament to his understanding of early photographic chemistry. I have never seen an aged photo from him that had discolored due to poor chemistry or inferior printing technique, which you often find even in the best fine art photographers work. It appears that Quillen's circus photos date mostly within the time frame of the mid-1920s to the late 1940s. Quillen lived and worked in Los Angeles and many of his circus photos have the Mode O' Day building in the background, which was right next to one of the most commonly used circus lots in L.A. I believe that the late Betty and Earl Schmid, circusiana dealers from Pittsburgh, PA, must have purchased Quillen's estate at some point, because I believe they ended up with all of his negatives and many of his prints. I also believe that a portion of this work was purchased by the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, although who knows how much of this material may be left there? So much of their collection has been sold off out the backdoor, has completely deteriorated due to benign neglect or carried away by former employees; it's a wonder that they have anything left at all. Earl Schmid, though, had kept some of the negatives and prints and he used to loan me the negatives to make him prints when I had a darkroom back in the early 1990's before he passed. I know Betty and Earl's daughter has sold some of Quillen's prints on eBay and they are real gems when you can find them.
Neil Cockerline
Minneapolis, MN

1/29/2009 4:01 PM  

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