Last Saturday, Stephen and I went on a short road trip to the Blue Mountains - we thought we would do something different for Chinese New Year. I haven’t been to Katoomba for ages (years!) so I was looking forward to the trip. Better still, the weather greeted us with rain and it was foggy. We stopped by an antique store in Katoomba after snacking on some scones at the Paragon Cafe (one of Sydney’s oldest cafes; it put Katoomba on the map because of its chocolates!)
When I visit antique stores or second book shops I take note of their vintage photograph collections - browse through to see if there is anything interesting. Most likely you won’t stumble upon Master Photographer’s works but more likely if you’re lucky enough, you find works of photographers in the past, their names, studio names, time and place where the photographs were made.
This store in Katoomba happened to have quite a selection of vintage photographs, some dating over 100 years, and also vintage cameras. They were between $3 to $500 to purchase. This one caught my eye - a 3.75 x 2.5” black and white image - it appears to have been photographed from a building through its arches and columns, looking into the distance, possibly over a hill and onto the ocean. So I bought this image.
The photograph had on the back written “View form Mt Carmel, Haifa”, and stamped with “PHOTOPRINTING AND COPYRIGHT BY PALPHOT - HERTSLIYA”.
Curious, I looked up on the Internet (don’t we all love the net for this reason) and found:
- this shot was taken in Haifa, Israel, possibly in the 30-40’s (judging from the era of the print and as well as the other photographs in the pile produced by Palphot)
- possibly shot from the Arcade of The Shrine of the Báb, and you can still see the Rose Baveno Collumns & Arche overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The Shrine is one impressive architectural structure and the architect was William Sutherland Maxwell, a Canadian Bahá'í.
- Palphot if it was the same as what I found on the net, was established in 1934. It is “Israel's leading publisher of pictorial books on the Holy Land, the Land of Jesus and Israel, bookmarks, greeting cards and calendars.” Today (nearly 80 years later), they publish a wide range of stationery, books etc including anything with the Hello Kitty brand - impressive considering the difficulties most publishers face today with digitisation & the internet.
What I struggled to find is the name(s) of the photographer(s) who worked for Palphot. And whether the photographs were initially produced with the intention to be sold as souvenirs or if they were commissioned. Who possessed this photograph once and how did it end up in Katoomba, NSW?
I’ve never been to Israel and would like to after having researched this photograph, learning about Haifa and its history where the first settlement was recorded in the Late Bronze Age (14th Century). Also to see The Shrine of the Báb, and hopefully to see Haifa as it is today. Perhaps I could then understand why the photographer of this image photographed from this angle.
Needless to say, I’m happy I stumbled upon this photograph - there’s something truly magical about a photograph - being able to hold it in my hands and contemplate the creator, the creation process and the content of the image is one that definitely beats browsing through images online. I’ll be framing this for the wall.
BTW, I'd love to photograph a portrait session in the fog one day - if you read this and you're keen, drop me an email.