|Intern Jennifer Graham works on solving some archival mysteries|
The photographs were developed (but not necessarily taken) by Moses Asch
The majority of the photographs were taken in New York City
Some photographs were taken around 1949 or 1950
The negatives have an aspect ratio of 1.33 (30 mm x 40 mm)
Stepping into the temporary shoes of Photograph Detective, I wanted to try to understand these photographs. Who was the photographer? What was being photographed? Where were the photographs taken? Why and when were they made? These are questions that we tend to ask to help build any knowledge that each photograph may hold. But when the answers to those questions aren’t readily available, we need to rediscover the information we have to draw connections and ultimately conclusions.
The first objective became to investigate the maker of these photographs, but how could one identify the photographer when they are always behind the lens? It became a priority to look for any semblance of an author. Any of these little breadcrumbs could configure a new lead or another clue! What we did find was a reflection of a woman with long and slender hands. Although she may not have authored all of the photographs, she is certainly responsible for taking this one. This, in the photo detective world, is a milestone!
What is amazing is that the reflection also tells us that the camera was both small and handheld. Can you help us try to identify the camera she was using? After researching the scribbles made on the development envelopes, we now know that the photographer was using 127 half-frame films, producing 3 x 4 cm images per roll. The camera also looks like it is being held horizontally, which could potentially be helpful in identifying a camera made before or during 1949 (the identified date of some of the photographs). In knowing this, maybe we can come closer to solving the mystery.
Jennifer Graham, Summer Intern
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections