Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Old Orkney Photograph Phun

Dusty and I began our morning when our Very Orcadian Colleague invited us to inspect these fantastic photos. He often brings through examples of interest, mirth or mystery and these delighted us.

The first is a positive image printed on glass of a group of four.

Photographs of this vintage rarely include people smiling as the exposure times were too long for sitters to hold a smile for. Dusty and I thought the woman looked particularly grim and wondered if she was having a bad day. VOC informed us that they were 'probably all in clamps' to keep them still (photographers used posing rods and neck rests to help sitters to remain static) and wondered why we were not more intrigued by the fellow on the right who was feeling his fellow sitter's ear and holding what appeared to be a small pipe.

What's his deal?

The instruction not to smile clearly caused this wee lass some mirth and we were amazed by how modern this picture seemed. It could have been taken yesterday. VOC thought it was early twentieth century and guessed from THE WALL BEHIND HER that it was taken on the isle of Westray.

The Orkney Photographic Archive comprises of close to 70,000 images of people, places, transport, archaeological digs, sporting events, terrifying creatures, mystery (poo-like) objects and many, many more subjects and/or events. Most of these are available to peruse in the Archive Search Room on the first floor of Orkney Library.

We can photocopy and scan images we own the copyright of and VOC can makephotographic prints for you in his Tardis-like darkroom.

Update: VOC investigated the origin of this photograph and it was indeed taken on Westray.


  1. Rebecca Purton3 July 2018 at 14:14

    I’m delighted by it. I started following you on Twitter earlier this year and am delighted by all your tweets too. Thank you very much for them. They are a good and positive thing and make me snort with laughter a lot. These photos are fabulous.

  2. Thank you Rebecca. We were, in turn, delighted by your comment and wish you a very merry Monday.

  3. Those are great photos! Here's my theory about the guy holding the ear in the top photo. He's placed his finger over a sharp point on the clamp holding the sitting man's head still, so that the sitting man doesn't have blood trickling down into his collar while waiting for the photo to be finished. As for the pipe--maybe it's a treasured possession and deserves to be photographed too? The young miss looks like she's ready to commit mayhem on the world around her just as soon as she's released. ^_^


  4. Hi Sue, yes, perhaps the pipe is a family heirloom of sorts.


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