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By Emma Thom on

Flickr favourites: The best of the Commons

Last month we celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Commons on Flickr, and I promised that our renewed enthusiasm for the project would lead us to share our hidden treasures more readily.

Since then we’ve posted a selection of photographs by Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond, whose work at Surrey Lunatic Asylum resulted in a haunting and poignant series of photographs of anonymous patients—a series which, evidently, resonated with the Commons community.

We also marked Australia Day with an assortment of photographs, from Walter Bentley Woodbury’s ‘early’ Australia to cricket.

Each month we’ll be reporting on our most popular Commons posts, and our curators will be making a selection from participating institutions around the world. So, beginning with a couple of favourites from our photostream…

Beach photograph of a photographer, woman and Felix the Cat puppet

Postcard of an itinerant photographer working on a beach

Our curators made selections from the Collections of the Library of Congress, Biblioteca de Arte-Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian and the State Library of New South Wales.

Katherine Drexel Dahlgren in her racing auto (LOC)

Rebecca Smith, Associate Curator, chose this photograph of Katherine Drexel Dahlgren:

I find this an irresistible image, partly because of the ridiculous size and shape of the car, and partly because of her expression, which seems to be saying ‘Yes, I was caught doing 90mph—so what?’ The user comments are worth a look. Apparently she was ‘one of the most daring automobilists among the young women of society’; I imagine that was quite a short list in 1915. She’s also quoted as saying:

All the village constables for miles around are watching us to prevent the race, but it will be over before they get through shining up their badges.

What a daredevil!

Rebecca also spotted this photograph from the Art Library of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Madrid, Espanha

This one appeals to me because of its composition. I like the layered appearance of tram, overhead wires, delivery guy, and the out-of-focus blur of the boy in the foreground. Each part seems to accentuate or frame the others. Peering at it on screen, some of the tram’s passengers appear to be gazing back at the photographer.

Photography Curator Greg Hobson made his selection from the Library of Congress’ vivid colour photographs of America in the 1930s–40s, an era usually only seen in black and white.

Barker at the grounds at the Vermont state fair, Rutland (LOC)

Fairs have always been a rich subject for great photographs and this is no exception. The slightly shabby and bored-looking pelican is an interesting focal point. I’m also fascinated by the myriad uninteresting observations that this photographed has been tagged with.

Photography Curator Colin Harding highlighted this photograph taken in 1930s Sydney.

Billboard advertising Saunders' malt extract, Sydney, ca. 1930 / photographer Sam Hood

An intriguing ‘modernist’ image where the geometric tonal blocks formed by the strong sunlight contrast with the cherubic image of the baby on the billboard. The sense of mystery is compounded by the eccentric cropping of the motor car. The horizontal bands of the road, kerb and pavement are reflected by the fencing underneath the billboard which are, in turn, echoed by the shadows cast upon it and by the telephone wires suspended above it.

Hope you enjoy the selection—do share your favourites from the Commons, and we’ll bring you more Flickr favourites next month.

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