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5 doctored West Kootenay postcards

Long before Photoshop existed, there was the airbrush. Patented in 1876 though not named until 1883, it allowed for the retouching of photographs. It wasn’t the only tool used for this purpose, but in skilled hands, it could make alterations look seamless. Here are five West Kootenay postcards that were doctored for one reason or another.


SS Kuskanook

First, here’s a widely-reproduced Richard Trueman image of the SS Kuskanook puffing along on Kootenay Lake. There is nothing suspicious about it on this version of this card, or on most others.

But look at this version: someone has made the sternwheeler’s trail of smoke look like the tops of trees, and added more trees (enormous ones at that) on the right.


Arrowhead

Here’s a typical view of the now-drowned town of Arrowhead on Upper Arrow Lake. Notice the mountains in the background.

Now look at this winter view. Where once there were mountains, now there is only open sea!


Nelson post office

You’ll recognize the building seen here as what is now Touchstones Nelson museum, and was formerly city hall, and before that the post office.

This Queens Studio photo is one of its most frequently reproduced images, but for whatever reason, the image is almost square. Stedman Brothers, a Brantford, Ont. postcard publisher, decided that it needed to round out the full width of a card. This was the result.

Buildings on either side have been extended, and a telephone pole on the left has been airbrushed out.


Nelson bird’s-eye-view

This postcard, by J. Howard Chapman, might be my all-time favourite. I’ve long puzzled over its angle. Maybe it was taken from across Kootenay Lake with a telephoto lens. Or perhaps from a balloon. Or maybe from the top of the steam derrick that was being used to construct the new courthouse in 1908 (the beginning of the work is seen in the foreground).

The image takes on a surreal, drawing-like quality because Chapman outlined the roofs and other features of the buildings with a white grease pencil, a practice I’ve seen applied to other cards, but not to such striking effect as seen here. It also depicts a number of interesting things rarely seen on postcards, including the Grand Central Hotel at bottom left, the opera house at top centre, and a gazebo in the middle of Ward Street.


Nelson school

I’m not sure about this one. It shows a crowd of boys (they do all seem to be boys) in front of Nelson’s Central School. It was unusual, although not unheard of, for action shots to appear on postcards. But it’s the boys in the right foreground that make me wonder. They appear to be out of scale with the ones behind them.

Of course, if they were closer to the camera, they would appear taller. And the schoolyard may have been on more of an incline at the time (today it is a level parking lot). But something still does not seem right.

The two boys on the far left with their backs to us seem to be half the size of the first boy facing the camera. But if the second group of boys really was matted on, what was the purpose? Just to make the image slightly more interesting? If another version of this photo existed, we might be able to glean some insight, but I have never seen one.

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Re Central School, I attended there (1953-1954) along with many school mates, some still alive today. But can't remember the Chimney's. Wonder if they had the five all going at once during winters, also could be a hidden one on the otherside of the roof. I know the top floor was removed a few years after because of safety reasons. This is

my grade 5 or 6 class on the front steps of the Central School. I'm first boy on left front row. Mr. Bragonola is the teacher. Still can name quite a few of the students.

Bob



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Jeff Brent
Jeff Brent
2021年12月21日

I believe the only "doctoring" on the Kuskanook photo is an alteration of contrast - the same leaf-less larch are in the original too. Great blogs btw

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The Nelson Post Office isn’t so much “airbrushed” as is a matter of perspective; either the painters were standing in different positions or the lenses used in the reference images obviously had different focal lengths. This is a wonderful post but it could have been more thought out.

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Greg Nesteroff
Greg Nesteroff
2021年9月22日
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I'm not quite sure what you mean. The second image has definitely been added to on both sides, with the buildings extended to round out the card. Here's another version where this is even more obvious: https://www.hippostcard.com/listing/post-office-nelson-british-columbia-canada-1900-1910s/17127276


The original photo also survives, but I can't seem to find it online.

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Ann Van Dielen
Ann Van Dielen
2021年9月20日

I really enjoy your blog.

いいね!
Greg Nesteroff
Greg Nesteroff
2021年9月20日
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Thank you!

いいね!
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