I like the natural, simplicity of this beach sunbathing scene from the early 1960s. The beach looks wild, possibly on the Cape West Coast. The women (‘Me’ on the frame), is in a blue bikini and blue sunglasses to match. With just a towel and blow-up pillow, she looks super relaxed – just as it should be at the beach. Is that a radio?
Category Archives: South Africa
My guess this is a Cape Town beach on the Atlantic seaboard, 1960s. It’s a wonderful example of vernacular photography that weirdly works. Despite being hastily snapped and, as a result, being skew and blurred, there are enough details from the era to make it interesting. I love the relaxed indifference of the women as they stride by, smoking and chatting. It’s almost contemporary.
The Table Mountain cable car pictured in the early 1960s with a lone man inside. These cars could transport about 12 people comfortably. I can just remember them, the open air and greasy smell of the cables. Nowadays the cable car company transports about 800 people per day up and down our famous and wonderful mountain.
People love finding rock formations that, from a particular angle, look like something else, especially an animal or human. The Internet has many examples of rock formations that look like a fox, rabbit, elephant, dog, penguin, bear, porcupine, fish, horse, camel, dinosaur, rhino, or human face. There are of course many examples of human breasts and buttocks as well as human genitals in rocks. Here is a rock formation that looks somewhat like a frog located in the Western Cape alongside the road between Betty’s Bay and Rooi Els.
The last time someone updated the paint job on this rock was in the early 1990s I’m told. It used to be cool to paint on rock formations if they were small enough, however these days one doesn’t see it often. It’s not cool anymore to paint on a natural feature. Instead people do it virtually in Photoshop; some of the examples I’ve seen in Google look like they might just start walking!
Here is another pic of iconic Spotty Dog the roadhouse on the Main Road of Retreat, taken in the mid or early 1960s. I’ve previously written about Spotty Dog in another post so go here to read about the history. The building is so iconic and so often photographed without context that it was nice to find a second drive-by photo in the same collection of the nearby Retreat Shopping Centre. Grandly named but actually a small, traditional Cape grocery store situated right on the Main Road and displaying a large array of fresh produce. Together the images give one the flavor (if you’ll excuse the pun) of the area.
Long forgotten by some is the fact that Retreat was once one of the largest ‘locations’ in Cape Town – an area where black South Africans lived. It saw forced removals under Apartheid throughout the 1950s with many people being moved to the new township of Nyanga. In 1961 the area was declared a ‘colored’ group area. Spotty dog witnessed all this South African history (maybe that’s why he’s showing a few cracks). The building is fondly remembered by people all over the world.
Where does the name Retreat come from? “The suburb of Retreat in Cape Town was so named because the Dutch retreated to that area when they were losing the Battle of Muizenberg (1795). The Dutch landed there after the Retreat and declared the area to be ‘Terugtrekking van de nederlandse 1795′ or in English, Retreat of the Netherlands 1795.The signage with Terugtrekking van de nederlandse 1795’ written on it can be found at a Museum in Cape Town, South Africa.” (Wikipedia)
Two moms enjoying a chat at a toddlers birthday late 1950s. A classic snapshot that perfectly captures the tête-à-têtes between the mothers with an offbeat composition. Tempting to crop it but I liked the deep well of the veranda space and the way the balloons poke in at the top.
The square format slide had degenerated to a murky magenta. I considered converting it to black and white but in the end liked this soft pink shade, with desaturated color.
Who has not stopped on a dirt road to climb a fence and pet the horses? Such a lovely found snapshot with two teenage girls gently connecting with a horse and foal in the mid 1960s.
This was a genuine moment on a family holiday, but surely the photographer had seen images of beautiful young women and girls with horses, its a genre in popular art and has been for more than a century. This reminds me how, consciously or unconsciously, we mimic images in popular media, art and advertising when we pick up a camera. This is a well documented phenomenon in vernacular photography. I don’t mean to destroy the charm of the image with this comment, it is a wonderful photograph in every way!
Four young girls playing at camping, mid 1960s. The wooden fruit boxes have Graymead Farm printed on the side, and Google tells me that this is probably the present-day one in the Villiersdorp area, Western Cape. It was probably a fruit farm. Love how this shows us a contrasting childhood for girls to the norms today. Nothing here is pretty or pink. These girls are down and dusty, barefoot campers, having fun with the simplest of props. It even looks like they’ve been making fire. Its rough and earthy and I love it. Respect to the parents who allowed their girls to create this experience and lovingly photographed it.
These two pics are labelled ‘JHB Festival’ and date to the late 1950s. They are tantalizing in their hints at a large, public event and location. However, I cannot be sure what festival this is. The Rand Easter Show is one possibility, so too is the annual Wits University RAG procession for the second image. The compressed perspective and amateur photographic skills result in quite an abstracted look. They’d make great paintings! Can you see the woman in the semi-transparent blue dress? She’s cool.
Here are the before-and-afters. I enjoyed reclaiming color, particular the first one with it’s delicious pastels, yellows and inky blues. The process brought details back to life, such as a string of colored electric bulbs.
The cultural practice of photography is usually hidden – you see the snapshot that was taken not the photographer in the act of taking it. That’s why I love this 1966 find in which a woman is photographing two girls in the small front garden of a house in what looks like Mowbray, Cape Town. I haven’t identified the camera but, with it’s top viewfinder, it looks like a 1940s or 1950s model. Their names are written on the frame: Lesley, Gillian and Alison. Maybe you know them? I almost feel like I do.
Sunday lunch was always done right – no matter where you were in the 1960s. At least it was in privileged white society in Southern Africa. One can feel a little uncomfortable noting this, however the undeniable beauty of the setting offers an alternative, more aesthetic focus for this image! The pastel colors of the veld, all yellows, blues, browns and greens, look perfect with the pastel pink crockery. I love the rich simplicity of the era and the formal traditions, so stuffy at the time, seem quaintly appealing now. No gadgets, branding, or cheap, bright camping paraphernalia – indeed outdoor repasts today have a completely different look and feel.
Hoggs Back Inn is a famous hotel in the dreamy, rural haven known as Hoggs Back, Eastern Cape. Its been there for about 100 years and has changed only subtly. This swimming pool and garden are still there, and they still have those yellow garden chairs. That is the charm of it. However, this is is a challenge for a vintage photography site – when a place hasn’t changed a whole lot, and looks much the same today as it did back in the day. I value the unchanging, classic tradition of a place like this, but how to show it? When I started playing around, I came up with the oval setting, which speaks of tradition, and the use of monochrome areas, which reminds us of of old photographs from long ago. The composition also gives the feeling that its an oasis of a place, and is loved by the many who have stayed there (PS: this is not a review, I have never been there!).
I started by doing tone and colour work on the original then applied the reddish monochrome to certain areas. This increased the drama and depth. I masked off the area outside an oval shape and then revealed some of the foliage outside the shape.
Before and after. Click for big.
Simonstown harbor in 1960. I love the flags – half transparent and whipping in the Cape wind. What a funny collection of men on that small fishing boat. This image appeals to my sea- and South Peninsula loving heart!
I deepened the sky, bringing back its moodiness, and brightened up the flags. I decided not to crop the half-man or to remove the signboard in the foreground – I like the odd but balancing effect they have.
Before and after. Click for big.
I came across this slide of Kalk Bay taken in 1964. Nearly 50 years later, not much has changed in this view from Boyes Drive. After some scrutiny I can point out that the big palm trees we see today were not yet planted, there are fewer chimneys now (they must’ve been removed), fewer buildings at the harbor and a different style of shelter on the station platform. I guess that’s the charm of Kalk Bay and the reason so many flock there on weekends; its still full of history.
The image needed a lot of contrast on the buildings to bring it to life.
Before and after. Click for big.