This is the final installment of a series in which David Vestal gives insight into historic photographs selected from Great Photographs from Daguerre to the Great Depression, published by the Dover Press and used with their permission.
117. Wright Brothers Postcard, by Unknown Photographer, 1915. This is a booster postcard promoting the wonders of Springfield, Minnesota. It is a good cut-and-paste job, a bucolic equivalent to the montages of avant-garde art photography. It’s well calculated to get our attention, but would not have fooled Sherlock Holmes.
“Observe, Watson, the direction of the sun, as shown by light and shadows on Main Street. The sun is directly to the left, is it not? Look now at the lower wing of the airplane. The shadow of the upper wing that is seen through the lower wing’s translucent tip shows that for Wright’s Flyer, the sun was above and behind. We do not have two suns that shine simultaneously from different positions in the sky. Ergo, the airplane was cut from another photograph and pasted onto the picture of the street. And what, pray, is an airplane, vintage circa 1909, doing just above the main drag of an alert community that boasts, ‘Wide awake and up to date/No better town in any state’ in the year 1915? We miss, do we not, the large, dramatic shadow of the airplane that would fall, were this scene wholly natural, upon the street and buildings at the right of the picture.”
“Once again, Holmes, you astound me.”
“Elementary, my dear Watson.” Nice postcard, though.