130+ Photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Masterpiece Fallingwater

We’ve fea­tured a vari­ety of build­ings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright here on Open Cul­ture, from his per­son­al home and stu­dio Tal­iesin and the Impe­r­i­al Hotel in Tokyo, to a gas sta­tion and a dog­house. But if any sin­gle struc­ture explains his endur­ing rep­u­ta­tion as a genius of Amer­i­can archi­tec­ture, and per­haps the genius of Amer­i­can archi­tec­ture, it must be the house called Falling­wa­ter.

Designed in 1935 for Pitts­burgh depart­ment-store mag­nate Edgar J. Kauf­mann and his wife Lil­iane, it sits atop an active water­fall — not below it as Kauf­mann had orig­i­nal­ly request­ed, to name just one of the dis­agree­ments that arose between client and archi­tect through­out the process.

In the event, Wright had his way as far as the posi­tion­ing of the house on the site, as with much else about the project — and so much the bet­ter for its stature in the his­to­ry of archi­tec­ture, which has only risen since com­ple­tion 85 years ago.

Inspired by the Kauf­man­n’s love of the out­doors, as well as his own appre­ci­a­tion for Japan­ese archi­tec­ture, Wright employed tech­niques to inte­grate Falling­wa­ter’s spaces with one anoth­er, as well as with the sur­round­ing nature. Time mag­a­zine wast­ed no time, as it were, declar­ing the result Wright’s “most beau­ti­ful job”; more recent­ly, it’s received high praise from no less a mas­ter Japan­ese archi­tect than Tadao Ando.

When he vis­it­ed Falling­wa­ter, Ando expe­ri­enced first-hand a use of space sim­i­lar to that which he knew from the built envi­ron­ment of his home­land, and also how the house lets in the sounds of nature. Though such a pil­grim­age can great­ly expand one’s appre­ci­a­tion of the house, rare is the view­er who fails to be enrap­tured by pic­tures alone.

Near­ly as astute in the realm of pub­lic­i­ty as in that of archi­tec­ture, Wright would have known that Falling­wa­ter had to pho­to­graph well, a qual­i­ty vivid­ly on dis­play in this archive of 137 high-res­o­lu­tion images at the Library of Con­gress. From it, you can down­load col­or and black-and-white pho­tos of the house­’s exte­ri­or and inte­ri­or as well as its plans, which — so the sto­ry goes — Wright orig­i­nal­ly drew up in just two hours after months of inac­tion. Falling­wa­ter thus stands as not just con­crete proof of once-brazen archi­tec­tur­al notions, but also vin­di­ca­tion for pro­cras­ti­na­tors every­where.

Relat­ed con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed Tour of Falling­wa­ter, One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Finest Cre­ations

12 Famous Frank Lloyd Wright Hous­es Offer Vir­tu­al Tours: Hol­ly­hock House, Tal­iesin West, Falling­wa­ter & More

What It’s Like to Work in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Icon­ic Office Build­ing

What Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unusu­al Win­dows Tell Us About His Archi­tec­tur­al Genius

The Unre­al­ized Projects of Frank Lloyd Wright Get Brought to Life with 3D Dig­i­tal Recon­struc­tions

1,300 Pho­tos of Famous Mod­ern Amer­i­can Homes Now Online, Cour­tesy of USC

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Only Color Picture of Tolstoy, Taken by Photography Pioneer Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky (1908)

The pho­to above depicts Lev Niko­layevich Tol­stoy, bet­ter known in the Eng­lish-speak­ing world as Leo Tol­stoy. It dates from 1908, when he had near­ly all his work behind him: the major nov­els War and Peace and Anna Karen­i­na, of course, but also the acclaimed late book The Death of Ivan Ilyich. His own death, in fact, lay not much more than two years before him. (See footage of the final days of his life here.) This did­n’t offer much of a win­dow of oppor­tu­ni­ty to the chemist Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky, who had recent­ly devel­oped a pho­tog­ra­phy process that could cap­ture the great man of let­ters in “true col­or” — and who under­stood that such a por­trait would score a pro­mo­tion­al coup for his inno­va­tion.

“After many years of work, I have now achieved excel­lent results in pro­duc­ing accu­rate col­ors,” Prokudin-Gorsky wrote to Tol­stoy ear­ly that same year. “My col­ored pro­jec­tions are known in both Europe and in Rus­sia. Now that my method of pho­tog­ra­phy requires no more than 1 to 3 sec­onds, I will allow myself to ask your per­mis­sion to vis­it for one or two days (keep­ing in mind the state of your health and weath­er) in order to take sev­er­al col­or pho­tographs of you and your spouse.” After receiv­ing that per­mis­sion, Prokudin-Gorsky spent two days at Yas­naya Polyana, Tol­stoy’s fam­i­ly estate, where he took col­or pic­tures of not just the man him­self but his work­ing quar­ters and the sur­round­ing grounds.

“A few months lat­er, in its August 1908 issue, The Pro­ceed­ings of the Russ­ian Tech­ni­cal Soci­ety ran the fol­low­ing announce­ment describ­ing ‘the first Russ­ian col­or pho­to­por­trait,’ a col­or pho­to­graph of L. N. Tol­stoy,” accord­ing to Tol­stoy Stud­ies Jour­nal. The result­ing fame drew Prokudin-Gorsky an invi­ta­tion to show his work to Tsar Nicholas II, who sub­se­quent­ly fur­nished him with the resources to spend ten years pho­to­graph­i­cal­ly doc­u­ment­ing Rus­sia in col­or. “To this day, nobody knows exact­ly what cam­era Prokudin-Gorsky used,” writes Kai Bernau at Words that Work, “but it was like­ly a large wood­en cam­era with a spe­cial hold­er for a slid­ing glass neg­a­tive plate, tak­ing three sequen­tial mono­chrome pho­tographs, each through a dif­fer­ent col­ored fil­ter.” This appears to be a tech­no­log­i­cal descen­dant of the process devel­oped in the ear­ly eigh­teen-six­ties by Scot­tish physi­cist-poet James Clerk Maxwell, cre­ator of the first col­or pho­to­graph in his­to­ry.

To view that pho­to­graph, Maxwell “pro­ject­ed the three slides using three dif­fer­ent pro­jec­tors, each affixed with the same col­or fil­ter that had been used to pro­duce the slide.” Prokudin-Gorsky, too, had to project his pho­tos, though he did lat­er make col­or prints; “he also pub­lished it, in sig­nif­i­cant num­bers, as a col­lectible post­card,” says Tol­stoy Stud­ies Jour­nal, adding that the ver­sion seen here is a scan of one such post­card. How accu­rate­ly a lith­o­graphed repro­duc­tion like the one above of Tol­stoy rep­re­sents the ‘real’ col­ors of Prokudin-Gorsky’s orig­i­nal pro­ject­ed image is debat­able”; the basic tech­no­log­i­cal dif­fer­ence between “sub­trac­tive” lith­o­g­ra­phy and “addi­tive’ pro­jec­tion means that we can’t be see­ing quite the same pic­ture of Tol­stoy that the Tsar did — but then, it’s a good a like­ness of him as we’re ever going to get.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Rus­sia in 70,000 Pho­tos: New Pho­to Archive Presents Russ­ian His­to­ry from 1860 to 1999

Behold the Very First Col­or Pho­to­graph (1861): Tak­en by Scot­tish Physi­cist (and Poet!) James Clerk Maxwell

Russ­ian His­to­ry & Lit­er­a­ture Come to Life in Won­der­ful­ly Col­orized Por­traits: See Pho­tos of Tol­stoy, Chekhov, the Romanovs & More

The Very Last Days of Leo Tol­stoy Cap­tured on Video

Tsarist Rus­sia Comes to Life in Vivid Col­or Pho­tographs Tak­en Cir­ca 1905–1915

Col­orized Pho­tos Bring Walt Whit­man, Char­lie Chap­lin, Helen Keller & Mark Twain Back to Life

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Earliest Surviving Photos of Iran: Photos from 1850s-60s Capture Everything from Grand Palaces to the Ruins of Persepolis

The tech­nol­o­gy and art of pho­tog­ra­phy emerged in nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry Europe. And so, when a part of the world out­side Europe was well-pho­tographed in those days, it tend­ed to be a trav­el­ing Euro­pean behind the cam­era. Take John Thom­son, pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, for his pho­tos of Chi­na in the eigh­teen-sev­en­ties. Even before that, an Ital­ian colonel and pho­tog­ra­ph­er named Lui­gi Pesce was hard at work doc­u­ment­ing a land geo­graph­i­cal­ly clos­er to Europe, but hard­ly less exot­ic in the Euro­pean world­view of the time: Per­sia, or what we would today call Iran.

“Accord­ing to schol­ars and his­to­ri­ans, the first pho­tog­ra­ph­er in Iran was Jules Richard, a French­man who, as stat­ed in his diaries, arrived in Tehran in 1844,” says the web site of the Nation­al Muse­um of Asian Art.

“He served as the French lan­guage tutor of the Gul­saz fam­i­ly and took daguerreo­types of Moham­mad Shah (reigned 1834–48) and his son, the crown prince, Nasir al-Din Mirza.” Alas, these pho­tographs seem to be lost, much like most oth­ers tak­en before Pesce’s arrival in the coun­try in 1848, “dur­ing the reign of Nas­er al-Din Shah Qajar, to train Iran­ian infantry units.”

Pesce’s pho­to­graph­ic sub­jects includ­ed Nas­er al-Din him­self, pic­tures of whom appear in the online col­lec­tion of Pesce’s work at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art. It was the Met that received a copy of the pho­to col­lec­tion Pesce pro­duced of Iran’s ancient mon­u­ments — prob­a­bly the very same copy that the pho­tog­ra­ph­er had orig­i­nal­ly sent to Prince William I, King of Prus­sia.

In those days, even such exalt­ed fig­ures had a great deal of curios­i­ty about far-flung realms, and before pho­tog­ra­phy, they had no eas­i­er way of see­ing what those realms real­ly looked like than mak­ing the ardu­ous jour­ney them­selves.

The sites cap­tured in this col­lec­tion include Toghrol Tow­er, the Tomb of Seeh‑i Mumin, and the Mosque of Nass­er-eddin Shah — as well as Pasar­gadae, Naqsh‑e Rus­tam, and Perse­po­lis, the famed cer­e­mo­ni­al cap­i­tal com­plex of the ancient Achaemenid Empire, which Pesce was the first to pho­to­graph. Or at least he was the first to suc­ceed in doing so, Nas­er al-Din hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly sent Richard off to make some daguerreo­types of Perse­po­lis that nev­er came out.

But even Pesce’s pho­tographs, ful­ly exe­cut­ed using just about the height of the tech­nol­o­gy at the time, no longer have the imme­di­a­cy they would have when Prince William gazed upon them; more than a cen­tu­ry and a half lat­er, they have a pati­na of his­tor­i­cal dis­tance that shades into unre­al­i­ty, mak­ing them feel not unlike ruins them­selves. You can also view more pho­tos on Google Arts and Cul­ture.

Relat­ed con­tent:

New Archive of Mid­dle East­ern Pho­tog­ra­phy Fea­tures 9,000 Dig­i­tized Images

Some of the Old­est Pho­tos You Will Ever See: Dis­cov­er Pho­tographs of Greece, Egypt, Turkey & Oth­er Mediter­ranean Lands (1840s)

Behold the World’s Old­est Ani­ma­tion Made on a Vase in Iran 5,200 Years Ago

The Old­est Known Pho­tographs of Rome (1841–1871)

700 Years of Per­sian Man­u­scripts Now Dig­i­tized & Free Online

Behold the Pho­tographs of John Thom­son, the First West­ern Pho­tog­ra­ph­er to Trav­el Wide­ly Through Chi­na (1870s)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Romanovs’ Last Ball Brought to Life in Color Photographs (1903)

In 1903, the Romanovs, Russia’s last and longest-reign­ing roy­al fam­i­ly, held a lav­ish cos­tume ball. It was to be their final blowout, and per­haps also the “last great roy­al ball” in Europe, writes the Vin­tage News. The par­ty took place at the Win­ter Palace in St. Peters­burg, 14 years before Czar Nicholas II’s abdi­ca­tion, on the 290th anniver­sary of Romanov rule. The Czar invit­ed 390 guests and the ball ranged over two days of fes­tiv­i­ties, with elab­o­rate 17th-cen­tu­ry boyar cos­tumes, includ­ing “38 orig­i­nal roy­al items of the 17th cen­tu­ry from the armory in Moscow.”

“The first day fea­tured feast­ing and danc­ing,” notes Rus­sia Beyond, “and a masked ball was held on the sec­ond. Every­thing was cap­tured in a pho­to album that con­tin­ues to inspire artists to this day.” The entire Romanov fam­i­ly gath­ered for a pho­to­graph on the stair­case of the Her­mitage the­ater, the last time they would all be pho­tographed togeth­er.

It is like see­ing two dif­fer­ent dead worlds super­im­posed on each other—the Romanovs’ play­act­ing their begin­ning while stand­ing on the thresh­old of their last days.

With the irony of hind­sight, we will always look upon these poised aris­to­crats as doomed to vio­lent death and exile. In a mor­bid turn of mind, I can’t help think­ing of the baroque goth­ic of “The Masque of the Red Death,” Edgar Allan Poe’s sto­ry about a doomed aris­toc­ra­cy who seal them­selves inside a cos­tume ball while a con­ta­gion rav­ages the world out­side: “The exter­nal world could take care of itself,” Poe’s nar­ra­tor says. “In the mean­time it was fol­ly to grieve or to think. The prince had pro­vid­ed all the appli­ances of plea­sure…. It was a volup­tuous scene, that mas­quer­ade.”

Maybe in our imag­i­na­tion, the Romanovs and their friends seem haunt­ed by the weight of suf­fer­ing out­side their palace walls, in both their coun­try and around Europe as the old order fell apart. Or per­haps they just look haunt­ed the way every­one does in pho­tographs from over 100 years ago. Does the col­oriz­ing of these pho­tos by Russ­ian artist Klimbim—who has done sim­i­lar work with images of WW2 sol­diers and por­traits of Russ­ian poets and writ­ers—make them less ghost­ly?

It puts flesh on the pale mono­chro­mat­ic faces, and gives the lav­ish cos­tum­ing and fur­ni­ture tex­ture and dimen­sion. Some of the images almost look like art nou­veau illus­tra­tions (and resem­ble those of some of the finest illus­tra­tors of Poe’s work) and the work of con­tem­po­rary painters like Gus­tav Klimt. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that unease lingers in the eyes of some subjects—Empress Alexan­dra Fedorov­na among them—a cer­tain vague and trou­bled appre­hen­sion.

In their book A Life­long Pas­sion, authors Andrei May­lu­nas and Sergei Miro­nenko quote the Grand Duke Alexan­der Mikhailovitch who remem­bered the event as “the last spec­tac­u­lar ball in the his­to­ry of the empire.” The Grand Duke also recalled that “a new and hos­tile Rus­sia glared through the large win­dows of the palace… while we danced, the work­ers were strik­ing and the clouds in the Far East were hang­ing dan­ger­ous­ly low.” As Rus­sia Beyond notes, soon after this cel­e­bra­tion, “The glob­al eco­nom­ic cri­sis marked the begin­ning of the end for the Russ­ian Empire, and the court ceased to hold balls.”

In 1904, the Rus­so-Japan­ese War began, a war Rus­sia was to lose the fol­low­ing year. Then the aristocracy’s pow­er was fur­ther weak­ened by the Rev­o­lu­tion of 1905, which Lenin would lat­er call the “Great Dress Rehearsal” for the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary takeover of 1917. While the aris­toc­ra­cy cos­tumed itself in the trap­pings of past glo­ry, armies amassed to force their reck­on­ing with the 20th cen­tu­ry.

Who knows what thoughts went through the mind of the tzar, tza­ri­na, and their heirs dur­ing those two days, and the minds of the almost 400 noble­men and women dressed in cos­tumes spe­cial­ly designed by artist Sergey Solomko, who drew from the work of sev­er­al his­to­ri­ans to make accu­rate 17th-cen­tu­ry recre­ations, while Peter Carl Fabergé chose the jew­el­ry, includ­ing, writes the Vin­tage News, the tzarina’s “pearls topped by a dia­mond and emer­ald-stud­ded crown” and an “enor­mous emer­ald” on her bro­cad­ed dress?

If the Romanovs had any inkling their almost 300-year dynasty was com­ing to its end and would take all of the Russ­ian aris­toc­ra­cy with it, they were, at least, deter­mined to go out with the high­est style; the fam­i­ly with “almost cer­tain­ly… the most abso­lutist pow­ers” would spare no expense to live in their past, no mat­ter what the future held for them. See the orig­i­nal, black and white pho­tos, includ­ing that last fam­i­ly por­trait, at His­to­ry Dai­ly, and see sev­er­al more col­orized images at the Vin­tage News.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2019.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Watch Scenes from Czarist Moscow Vivid­ly Restored with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence (May 1896)

Dos­toyevsky Got a Reprieve from the Czar’s Fir­ing Squad and Then Saved Charles Bukowski’s Life

Tsarist Rus­sia Comes to Life in Vivid Col­or Pho­tographs Tak­en Cir­ca 1905–1915

 

 

The Oldest Known Photographs of Rome (1841–1871)

The rav­ages of COVID-19 have been fol­lowed by the rav­ages of the post-pan­dem­ic tourism boom. If you’ve been read­ing recent cov­er­age of aggres­sive trav­el and its dis­con­tents, you may well assume that it’s too late to have a gen­uine expe­ri­ence of, say, the great cities of Europe. Paris, Vien­na, Barcelona: none are as they used to be, we’re told, and the same may even be true of the Eter­nal City. Lovers of such places were com­plain­ing about tourists decades and decades ago, of course, but how far back in time would one have to trav­el in order to take in the glo­ries of a Rome that had­n’t yet fall­en to the invad­ing T‑shirt-and-flip-flopped hordes?

One would have to trav­el back about 150 years, at least accord­ing to the pic­to­r­i­al evi­dence pro­vid­ed in the video above from Youtu­ber Jarid Boost­ers, who appears to have a strong inter­est in his­tor­i­cal pho­tog­ra­phy.

His most pop­u­lar videos include gath­er­ings-up of pic­tures of old Los Ange­les, of the lost archi­tec­ture of the Ger­man Empire, of nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry Iran. In this new episode, he presents the ear­li­est known pho­tographs tak­en in Rome, which date from the ear­ly eigh­teen-for­ties to the ear­ly eigh­teen-sev­en­ties. Most were tak­en by an ear­ly Ital­ian adopter of pho­tog­ra­phy named Gioacchi­no Alto­bel­li.

Soon after pick­ing up a cam­era in the eigh­teen-thir­ties, Alto­bel­li ded­i­cat­ed his career to “pho­tograph­ing some of the most ancient and most infa­mous sites through­out Rome,” says Boost­ers. “From 1841 through 1871, Alto­bel­li, along with a team of oth­er pho­tog­ra­phers, includ­ing Richard Jones, took it upon them­selves to doc­u­ment the most famous and ancient city of Rome as com­plete­ly as pos­si­ble.” Their sub­jects includ­ed the still-rec­og­niz­able likes of the Colos­se­um and Hadri­an’s tomb, nat­u­ral­ly, as well as the Arch of Drusus, the Tem­ple of Venus and Roma, and the Por­to di Ripet­ta. Hav­ing been demol­ished by the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, the Por­to di Ripet­ta stands out as one of the fea­tures that sets the Rome of Alto­bel­li’s day apart from the Rome of today — well, that and the absence of self­ie-tak­ers.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Rome Comes to Life in Pho­tochrom Col­or Pho­tos Tak­en in 1890: The Colos­se­um, Tre­vi Foun­tain & More

New Dig­i­tal Archive Puts Online 4,000 His­toric Images of Rome: The Eter­nal City from the 16th to 20th Cen­turies

Some of the Old­est Pho­tos You Will Ever See: Dis­cov­er Pho­tographs of Greece, Egypt, Turkey & Oth­er Mediter­ranean Lands (1840s)

Behold the Pho­tographs of John Thom­son, the First West­ern Pho­tog­ra­ph­er to Trav­el Wide­ly Through Chi­na (1870s)

A Vir­tu­al Tour of Ancient Rome, Cir­ca 320 CE: Explore Stun­ning Recre­ations of The Forum, Colos­se­um and Oth­er Mon­u­ments

High-Res­o­lu­tion Walk­ing Tours of Italy’s Most His­toric Places: The Colos­se­um, Pom­peii, St. Peter’s Basil­i­ca & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Exquisite 2300-Year-Old Scythian Woman’s Boot Preserved in the Frozen Ground of Siberia

Shoes and boots, show where your feet have gone. —Guy Sebeus, 10 New Scythi­an Tales 

In the age of fast fash­ion, when planned obso­les­cence, cheap mate­ri­als, and shod­dy con­struc­tion have become the norm, how star­tling to encounter a styl­ish women’s boot that’s tru­ly built to last…

…like, for 2300 years.

It helps to have land­ed in a Scythi­an bur­ial mound in Siberia’s Altai Moun­tains, where the above boot was dis­cov­ered along with a num­ber of nomadic after­life essentials—jewelry, food, weapons, and cloth­ing.

These arti­facts (and their mum­mi­fied own­ers) were well pre­served thanks to per­mafrost and the painstak­ing atten­tion the Scythi­ans paid to their dead.

As cura­tors at the British Muse­um wrote in advance of the 2017 exhi­bi­tion Scythi­ans: War­riors of Ancient Siberia:

Nomads do not leave many traces, but when the Scythi­ans buried their dead they took care to equip the corpse with the essen­tials they thought they need­ed for the per­pet­u­al rides of the after­life. They usu­al­ly dug a deep hole and built a wood­en struc­ture at the bot­tom. For impor­tant peo­ple these resem­bled log cab­ins that were lined and floored with dark felt – the roofs were cov­ered with lay­ers of larch, birch bark and moss. With­in the tomb cham­ber, the body was placed in a log trunk cof­fin, accom­pa­nied by some of their prized pos­ses­sions and oth­er objects. Out­side the tomb cham­ber but still inside the grave shaft, they placed slaugh­tered hors­es, fac­ing east.

18th-cen­tu­ry water­col­or illus­tra­tion of a Scythi­an bur­ial mound. Archive of the Insti­tute of Archae­ol­o­gy of the Russ­ian Acad­e­my of Sci­ences, St Peters­burg

The red cloth-wrapped leather bootie, now part of the State Her­mitage Muse­um’s col­lec­tion, is a stun­ner, trimmed in tin, pyrite crys­tals, gold foil and glass beads secured with sinew. Fan­ci­ful shapes—ducklings, maybe?—decorate the seams. But the true mind­blow­er is the remark­able con­di­tion of its sole.

Spec­u­la­tion is ram­pant on Red­dit, as to this bot­tom layer’s pris­tine con­di­tion:

Maybe the boot belonged to a high-rank­ing woman who wouldn’t have walked much…

Or Scythi­ans spent so much time on horse­back, their shoe leather was spared…

Or per­haps it’s a high qual­i­ty funer­al gar­ment, reserved for exclu­sive­ly post-mortem use…

The British Muse­um cura­tors’ expla­na­tion is that Scythi­ans seat­ed them­selves on the ground around a com­mu­nal fire, sub­ject­ing their soles to their neigh­bors’ scruti­ny.

Become bet­ter acquaint­ed with Scythi­an boots by mak­ing a pair, as ancient Per­sian empire reen­ac­tor Dan D’Silva did, doc­u­ment­ing the process in a 3‑part series on his blog. How you bedaz­zle the soles is up to you.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2020.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Styl­ish 2,000-Year-Old Roman Shoe Found in a Well

The Ancient Egyp­tians Wore Fash­ion­able Striped Socks, New Pio­neer­ing Imag­ing Tech­nol­o­gy Imag­ing Reveals

The Ancient Romans First Com­mit­ted the Sar­to­r­i­al Crime of Wear­ing Socks with San­dals, Archae­o­log­i­cal Evi­dence Sug­gests

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The First Known Photograph of People Having a Beer (1843)

It should go with­out say­ing that one should drink respon­si­bly, for rea­sons per­tain­ing to life and limb as well as rep­u­ta­tion. The ubiq­ui­ty of still and video cam­eras means poten­tial­ly embar­rass­ing moments can end up on mil­lions of screens in an instant, copied, down­loaded, and saved for pos­ter­i­ty. Not so dur­ing the infan­cy of pho­tog­ra­phy, when it was a painstak­ing process with min­utes-long expo­sure times and arcane chem­i­cal devel­op­ment meth­ods. Pho­tograph­ing peo­ple gen­er­al­ly meant keep­ing them as still as pos­si­ble for sev­er­al min­utes, a require­ment that ren­dered can­did shots next to impos­si­ble.

We know the results of these ear­ly pho­to­graph­ic por­trai­ture from many a famous Daguerreo­type, named for its French inven­tor, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. At the same time, dur­ing the 1830s and 40s, anoth­er process gained pop­u­lar­i­ty in Eng­land, called the Calo­type—or “Tal­bo­type,” for its inven­tor William Hen­ry Fox Tal­bot. “Upon hear­ing of the advent of the Daguerreo­type in 1839,” writes Linz Welch at the Unit­ed Pho­to­graph­ic Artists Gallery site, Tal­bot “felt moved to action to ful­ly refine the process that he had begun work on. He was able to short­en his expo­sure times great­ly and start­ed using a sim­i­lar form of cam­era for expo­sure on to his pre­pared paper neg­a­tives.”

This last fea­ture made the Calo­type more ver­sa­tile and mechan­i­cal­ly repro­ducible. And the short­ened expo­sure times seemed to enable some greater flex­i­bil­i­ty in the kinds of pho­tographs one could take. In the 1843 pho­to above, we have what appears to be an entire­ly unplanned group­ing of rev­el­ers, caught in a moment of cheer at the pub. Cre­at­ed by Scot­tish painter-pho­tog­ra­phers Robert Adam­son and David Octavius Hill—who grins, half-stand­ing, on the right—the image looks like almost no oth­er por­trait from the time. Rather than sit­ting rigid­ly, the fig­ures slouch casu­al­ly; rather than look­ing grim and mourn­ful, they smile and smirk, appar­ent­ly shar­ing a joke. The pho­to­graph is believed to be the first image of alco­holic con­sump­tion, and it does its sub­ject jus­tice.

Though Tal­bot patent­ed his Calo­type process in Eng­land in 1841, the restric­tions did not apply in Scot­land. “In fact,” the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art writes, “Tal­bot encour­aged its use there.” He main­tained a cor­re­spon­dence with inter­est­ed sci­en­tists, includ­ing Adamson’s old­er broth­er John, a pro­fes­sor of chem­istry. But the Calo­type was more of an artists’ medi­um. Where Daguerreo­types pro­duced, Welch writes, “a star­tling resem­blance of real­i­ty,” with clean lines and even tones, the Calo­type, with its salt print, “tend­ed to have high con­trast between lights and darks…. Addi­tion­al­ly, because of the paper fibers, the image would present with a grain that would dif­fuse the details.” We see this espe­cial­ly in the cap­tur­ing of Octavius Hill, who appears both life­like in motion and ren­dered artis­ti­cal­ly with char­coal or brush.

The oth­er two figures—James Bal­lan­tine, writer, stained-glass artist, and son of an Edin­burgh brew­er, and Dr. George Bell, in the center—have the rak­ish air of char­ac­ters in a William Hog­a­rth scene. The Nation­al Gal­leries of Scot­land attrib­ut­es the nat­u­ral­ness of these pos­es to “Hill’s socia­bil­i­ty, humour and his capac­i­ty to gauge the sit­ters’ char­ac­ters.” Sure­ly the booze did its part in loos­en­ing every­one up. The three men are said to be drink­ing Edin­burgh Ale, “accord­ing to a con­tem­po­rary account… ‘a potent flu­id, which almost glued the lips of the drinker togeth­er.’ ” Such a side effect would, at least, make it extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to over-imbibe.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2017.

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Relat­ed Con­tent

The First Pho­to­graph Ever Tak­en (1826)

See The First “Self­ie” In His­to­ry Tak­en by Robert Cor­nelius, a Philadel­phia Chemist, in 1839

See the First Pho­to­graph of a Human Being: A Pho­to Tak­en by Louis Daguerre (1838)

The First Faked Pho­to­graph (1840)

Behold the Very First Col­or Pho­to­graph (1861): Tak­en by Scot­tish Physi­cist (and Poet!) James Clerk Maxwell

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Some of the Oldest Photos You Will Ever See: Discover Photographs of Greece, Egypt, Turkey & Other Mediterranean Lands (1840s)

Begin­ning in the late sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry, aris­to­crat­ic Eng­lish­men or con­ti­nen­tal Euro­peans came of age and went on a Grand Tour. Last­ing any­thing from few a months to a few years, such trips were meant direct­ly to expose their young tak­ers to the lega­cy of the Renais­sance and antiq­ui­ty. Nat­u­ral­ly, most Grand Tour itin­er­aries placed the utmost impor­tance on Italy and Greece; some even went to the Holy Land, as sat­i­rized by Mark Twain in The Inno­cents Abroad. By the time that book was pub­lished in 1869, the Grand Tour was out of high fash­ion — but a cou­ple of decades ear­li­er, Joseph-Philib­ert Girault de Prangey had pre­served many of its des­ti­na­tions with a piece of cut­ting-edge tech­nol­o­gy known as the cam­era.

Girault de Prangey went on his first pho­to­graph­ic “Grand Tour” in 1841, when he was in his late thir­ties. Hav­ing already trav­eled exten­sive­ly and received an edu­ca­tion in both art and law, he was hard­ly a cal­low youth in need of refine­ment. But he was an aris­to­crat, the sole inher­i­tor of his fam­i­ly for­tune, and thus able to “devote his life to his pas­sions: trav­el, arts, and pub­lish­ing.”

So says the nar­ra­tor of the Kings and Things video above, which tells the sto­ry of how Girault de Prange man­aged to leave us the ear­li­est known pho­tographs of a large swath of the world. This project “took him from Italy to Greece, Egypt, Turkey, and the Lev­ant, he cap­tured over 1,000 pho­tographs, with sub­jects rang­ing from streetscapes and archi­tec­tur­al details to nature and land­scapes and por­traits of local peo­ple.”

Not that pho­tog­ra­phy per se was Girault de Prangey’s goal; for him, tak­ing a pic­ture con­sti­tut­ed mere­ly an ear­ly step in the cre­ation of a draw­ing or paint­ing. “Although he only intend­ed to use them as a sort of sketch to refer to back home in his stu­dio,” he “arranged his pic­tures so as to pro­duce a sense of dra­ma or mys­tery, and this artis­tic sen­si­bil­i­ty sets him apart from many oth­er pio­neers of pho­tog­ra­phy, who were pri­mar­i­ly tech­ni­cians or inven­tors.” The age of the Grand Tour was end­ing even in Girault de Prangey’s day, but 180 years lat­er (and about a cen­tu­ry after their redis­cov­ery in one of his estate’s store­rooms), his pho­tographs send us on a very dif­fer­ent kind of trip: not just across the world, but — much more thrilling­ly — deep back in time as well.

via Aeon

Relat­ed con­tent:

The First Pho­to­graph Ever Tak­en (1826)

See the First Pho­to­graph of a Human Being: A Pho­to Tak­en by Louis Daguerre (1838)

Take a Visu­al Jour­ney Through 181 Years of Street Pho­tog­ra­phy (1838–2019)

Behold the Pho­tographs of John Thom­son, the First West­ern Pho­tog­ra­ph­er to Trav­el Wide­ly Through Chi­na (1870s)

Rome Comes to Life in Pho­tochrom Col­or Pho­tos Tak­en in 1890: The Colos­se­um, Tre­vi Foun­tain & More

The First Sur­viv­ing Pho­to­graph of the Moon (1840)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.