Props for a 'vintage' photography project
November 13, 2006 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Help me think of easy-to-make props for my photography project... or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Turn-of-the-Century European Society.

I'm doing a "non-linear narrative" for a photography project. That bit is completely unbendable.

My take on it: the collected objects of one man, as seen throughout his anthropological studies (mostly of the awful, Hottentot Venus and death type). I will have access to a macro lens and a copy stand, so the objects can be decently small.

The twist: the 'tribes' are Europeans from the turn-of-the-century, and depending on a few issues, I'd be willing to go throughout the 20th century if needed.

Examples of props I've thought of:

Star charts
Various technological inventions
Drawings of various symbols of supposed religious significance (the monarchy, churches, iPods, necklaces)
Photographs of 'tribal elders'
Jewelry and fashion
Natural objects and spices??

And that's when I run out of ideas. I want more 3-D items in any given picture than 2-D ones, if it's at all humanly possible.

Any help?
posted by flibbertigibbet to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you near a train model store? Or maybe a junk store? A used book store? Take your camera and ask of you can take some pictures. Maybe go by a costume store and have a friend act it out? Sorry if this is totally off - I don't know if I totally understand what you're going for.

Sometimes when I would get stuck on a creative project I would just start shooting and interesting stuff would emerge out of that. Those ideas that came out of the work were usually better than the ones I thought up in my head first.

Maybe use a shallow depth of field on your 2D props - and the micro - distort them; make them look dreamy and old and ambiguous.

Sounds like an interesting project! Have fun!
posted by dog food sugar at 6:10 PM on November 13, 2006

I'm also not too clear on what you need, but it sounds to me like you want assorted objects from everyday life in the early 20th century. (Anthropologists would be interested in everyday life as well as rituals and symbolism, right?) A good place to find everyday old stuff is antique stores, particularly of the "We buy junk and sell antiques" variety (i.e., the low-dollar eclectic random stuff type, not the Sotheby's type). Call a few and ask if you could photograph some of their stuff in return for giving them credit in your project, or ask if you can rent some items as props.

Many thrift stores also have old stuff, or stuff that looks old. Garage and estate sales are another possibility - just keep your camera with you when you're out and about, especially on weekends.

I hope this helps. Good luck!
posted by Quietgal at 9:58 PM on November 13, 2006

Best answer: Natural objects for sure - shells, bones (especially skulls, animals will do), fountain pens, inkwells, post cards, advertising tins, antique photos (daguerrotypes are expensive, but cabinet cards are still findable as 'instant ancestor $1' bargains), stereoscopes and stereo cards, paper fans, egyptian artifacts, chinese blue & white porcelains, pocket watches, jewelry, tools, straight razor and strop, lace, scrapbooks, silver tray, calling cards, dance cards, sheet music...
posted by faineant at 1:41 AM on November 14, 2006

Best answer: cigars, pen knife, shipping charts and maritime anything, train timetable, magnifying glass, eyeglasses or monocle, opera glasses...

Possibly useful:

European Belle Epoque
posted by faineant at 2:04 AM on November 14, 2006

Best answer: As you go through your day, everything you do, think "how was this done 100 years ago?". Brushing your teeth, eating your food, reading email, etc. Hopefully this could get you more than the usual turn-of-the-century pseudo-nostalgia items.
Also, think cheap - most 1900's-like stuff we have today, we have because it's the best of the period - fancy things, heirlooms, etc. Ie, not representative of the period at all. Antique dealers know that people keep the few things that are fancy, so inversely, there is no shortage of them, but people throw out the majority of things, which are cheap, thus the cheap/disposable/rubbish type things often become the rarer than the fancy things and thus more valuable. With that in mind, think also about things that would be discarded.

While not 3d, here is a great collection of 1920's props you can print - ticket stubs, library cards, telegrams, postcards, etc. And for $20 is a CD containing many more. (Their setting is a fictional american town, but but they are fairly period authentic, besides, that's what photoshop is for :-)

Another potentially useful link
posted by -harlequin- at 7:58 AM on November 14, 2006

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