This month’s treasure comes from an unexpected source- the Flickr account Lynne’s Lens. One set in particular caught my attention. The set- titled World’s Fair Photographer– includes scanned 35mm negatives Lynne purchased in a flea market, assuming they were just your ordinary collection of “people lined up in front of a house smiling at the camera, a blurry car or two, maybe (if you’re lucky) an interesting snap of a street scene or interior.” However, they proved to be quite a treasure. The pictures, judging from their quality, were probably taken by a professional photographer. They depict not only New York City in the 1930s, but also, as the name of the set implies, the 1939 New York World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows. I am particularly enamored with the portraits, but I do recommend to view the entire set, as the architectural photographs are spectacular. Below are some of my favorites images,
Another wonderful set in Lynne’s account is of Dallas photographer from the 1050s- 80s Tom Collins. “By the time I met him, he was a frail man in his 70’s who had lost an eye (to cancer, I believe) and wore a black eye patch over it. He lived in a dark front room of the color lab because he and his wife didn’t get along very well, and, frankly, I think he loved that lab better than anything and was happiest when he could hang out there and smell the chemicals, hear the machines at work, and troubleshoot in his very quiet and patient way.
Mr. Collins’ best friend was his bulldog, Pete, who used to run around the lab like he owned the place and went everywhere Mr. Collins went. The only time I ever saw the normally very stoic Mr. Collins laugh was when Pete did a trick or in some other way endeared himself to all of us.
Mr. Collins died not too long after I stopped working at the lab in 1986. After he died, the lab closed, and the ancient old house that was home Mr. Collins’ pride and joy is now an art gallery on busy McKinney Avenue.”
I chose some photographs that caught my eye personally, but if you have the time I really do recommend to go over all of them. It is a good reminder that great primary sources can be found in an unexpected places.
“In 1985-86, I worked at Collins Color Lab on McKinney Avenue in Dallas. When I worked there, the lab mostly did prints of huge architectural renderings for firms all over the city.Located in a turn-of-the-century house that hadn’t been updated since Mr. Collins set up shop there in the 50’s, the lab contained file cabinet after file cabinet of 4×5 negatives.One day, Mr. Collins daughter, Beth, who ran the business end of the lab, asked me to help her go through the file cabinets; they were going to purge old negatives to have the silver extracted from them to make way for more room in the lab. Well, when I opened the first package of negatives, I was shocked. I had expected to see architectural renderings, but instead, I found negatives of Dallas from the 1950’s and 60’s. Apparently, Mr. Collins spent his early years as a photographer taking photos for businesses, advertising firms, architects, and newspapers. There were tens of thousands of negatives of this great stuff, and I wanted to keep every single one. However, that wasn’t the goal of the project, so I got to work going through every negative in one file cabinet, tossing 98% of them in a trash bag to be taken for extraction. It was a painful job to do. While we were going through the negatives, I did ask Beth if I could keep some that I really liked, and she agreed, which is how I ended up with these.”
Mr. Collins’s negatives were donated to the Dallas Historical Society.
All photographs courtesy of Lynne’s Lens.