Brooklyn Stereography Turns 100… with News, Updates, Stats – and 3D!

This is the 100th Post on Brooklyn Stereography

And it’s been quite a ride! Back when I came up with the idea to start Brooklyn Stereography, I had three ideas in mind. The first was to showcase my collection, for those that were interested. I know I have some unique stuff, and I think that I have some interesting stuff. Thus, people might just be interested! And it’s also an opportunity for me to start earnestly cataloguing what’s I have. What’s in all the boxes, drawers, bins, shelves, and so on? So basically, it’s an excuse to air my dirty 3D laundry to the world.

Secondly, I want to popularize classical means of 3D photography. There are still many people who grew up collecting Weetabix cards. But most people of my generation (and younger) are largely unfamiliar with classical 3D – from Holmes Cards up through VistaScreen, and everything in between. I want Brooklyn Stereography to be a repository for information on these topics and more, and I want to make it fun. I try to accompany each post with some interesting text. And I hope that I’m sometimes successful.

Finally, I wanted to interface with other people interested in – or becoming interested in – stereography. In this last bit, I’ve been eminently successful. At least several times a week (excepting my hiatus), I receive messages through my contact page. Many of these are requests for information, people wanting to show me something they found, and so on. Some of them have turned into lengthy correspondences. I say: awesome!

Where do we go from here?

An image of a soldier standing in the middle of a long and winding road, with fields to both sides. Never before posted on Brooklyn Stereography.
Unknown photographer, subject, and location, from one of my smaller collections of Great War amateur negatives.

Well first and foremost, we continue to look at, think about, and appreciate stereographic imagery. That’s at the core of Brooklyn Stereography, right? So let’s take a look at the above image. Because there are both metaphorical and tangible lessons to be taken. I’ve been reticent to post this stereoview for a while, because of the many WWI amateur glass stereoviews I own, it’s my favorite. I figured I should save it for a special occasion. But in reality, I’ve got so many “awesome special things” in my collection, that I’m just going to post whatever I want from now on. With (of course) due consideration for my readers – and more on that later.

The other thing thing to consider is the view itself. I love this image. It’s not a cool mortar, a dramatic corpse, a haunting look over the trenchtop into No Man’s Land. It’s a soldier, on a road – at least on the surface. But look at the subtext here – the soldier is positioned at a distance from the photographer, but framed so as to be the clear subject. Which way had he been walking, assuming he wasn’t just waiting for Godot to arrive? Towards the (possibly) new and alien city in the distance? Towards us, the unknown? Either way, the soldier is on a journey. And so goes Brooklyn Stereography – it’s a constant journey, with no clear destination.

The Road Behind Us

Where da Readers At?

So as of today’s writing, here are the ten countries that visit Brooklyn Stereography most frequently, from the United States at #1, to Austria at #10:

An image with the top 10 countries to visit Brooklyn Stereography.

Language barriers are probably more prominent in countries outside the Western World, which might account for some of this. But this ranking might be rather obvious for another reason – of these ten countries, there is at least one blog post focused on seven of them. And of the three not yet represented in a full-on post (Canada, Australia, and Austria), all were major participants in the Great War. Being the most extensive topic on the site, this all falls into place – except for one thing.

America isn’t just the No. 1 country visiting this site – it accounts for over half of the traffic on Brooklyn Stereography. And yet, in terms of posts, it represents a small minority – outside of Tru-Vue posts and the occasional one-shot. This is reflected in some of the conversations and questions that have come my way, especially recently, as traffic has steadily increased. People want more American content on the blog, and are curious as to why there isn’t more now.

America on Brooklyn Stereography

The “Brooklyn” in “Brooklyn Stereography” is the American borough in which I live. I’ve posted two Tru-Vue filmstrips on Brooklyn, and at some point will post some older photography of NYC as well. But there are several reasons that I tend to focus my sites across the seas. First and foremost, most stereoviews of, say, the scenery of Maine don’t interest me. I can rent a car and be there in under a day’s drive, stopping in numerous other states as well. Of course, the turn-of-the-century industry of Maine is more interesting:

A Keystone stereoview depicting a scene from the paper industry in Maine, as well as verso text.
Keystone V22072, “Pulp Beater, Mixer and Cleaner, Paper Industry, Maine.” as well as verso text.

Obviously, I don’t see things like this – from some weird small set of Maine industry cards I came by the other day – on a regular basis. But I’ve been seeing images of Mount Rushmore since my 3rd grade civics class. (Most Americans don’t know much about true American history if their knowledge comes from the public schools. Our late entry into the Great War makes me no prouder to be an American than our recent pull-out from the Paris Agreement.)

Anyhow, although America isn’t terribly interesting to me personally, I’m responsive to my readers. I’ll try to include more North American content in the future – though of course, in my own style. Which likely means more industrial scenes, circuses, nightclubs, and other fringe topics. There’s plenty out there on Yosemite if that’s your kick.

Whatcha reading?

Sometimes, site statistics and trends can help to see what interests people – and what doesn’t. After all, most writers want to write things that readers want to read! But statistics can lie – as entry #2 makes clear on the following Top 5 list of the most heavily-trafficked posts on Brooklyn Stereography:

  1. Tru-Vue Brooklyn Series 1
  2. German A7V Tanks – “Mephisto” and “Elfriede”
  3. Remembrance Day: 100 Years, 100 Photos
  4. Casualties That Yet Lived On
  5. Tru-Vue Brooklyn Series 2
  6. Raumbild Paris 1937 (Part 1)
  7. Tru-Vue Century of Progress World’s Fair (Part 1)
  8. The Ruins of Reims
  9. An American Surgeon in Paris
  10. Tru-Vue Burlesque – Sally Rand’s Fan Dance

The A7V post makes sense in context – yes, it was posted three and a half days ago, and yes, it’s awesome. But the reason it’s ranking so highly is that Google somehow selected it to be a featured post. Believe me when I say that this affected my site traffic until yesterday. But the rest make perfect sense. Brooklyn scenes on Brooklyn Stereography? No-brainer! And everything else on the list is from 2018, and thus has had time to build its hit counter. The Great War is both the focal point of my collection and of this blog, so half of the posts being on the subject makes sense. And the rest are all Big Topics – in fact, they’re all on World’s Fairs!

Other Things to be Gleaned from This List

Rather interestingly, the small-format Tru-Vue filmstrips have three entries in the Top 10. I’m chalking this up to the subject matter – a piece of 35mm filmstrip cannot even come close to the quality of much 19th century stereography, let alone 6×13 cm glass plate negatives. Either that, or an awful lot of toy-format fanatics follow the site! In any case, being that I have almost a thousand rolls (with many duplicates), there’s much to come. There’s Mikro-Kino as well, and Novelview still to introduce. So needless to say, I’ll keep ’em coming!

A picture of a Tru-Vue box for an unnumbered filmstrip yet to be featured on Brooklyn Stereography.
Tru-Vue’s short-lived “The Circus” filmstrip – likely coming to this blog later this year, unless I get distracted by something shiny.

The top 10 list also tells me something immensely heartening, as well as a few things that are personally disheartening. It is good to know that you all have maintained an interest in my Great War posts. This being the heart of my collection, I’m glad that you all have appreciation for it as well. Salud! However, I’m a bit saddened that two of my posts – the two which probably took the longest (outside of Remembrance Day) – have performed (relatively) poorly. My long biographical essay on Wilfred Owen is way down the list, and Box 1 of the Puthon Collection is currently at #13. But both have seen climbs recently; we’ll see.

What Statistic Don’t Tell Me

While I can tell some things about my readership through analyzing stats, there are many things I cannot. Are most people actually reading the text that I write (85% of my effort) or just looking at the scans and anaglyphs (15% of my effort)? Why does a post where I make fun of a crappy penguin stereoview have more views than my holiday post on the 1933 Carnaval de Nice, which I had been saving for a special occasion? And why in the hell has a terrible VistaScreen series about a single panda gotten more hits than all three parts of a detailed examination of VistaScreen’s history with the Bertram Mills Circus combined?

VistaScreen's "Coco the Clown", from the Brooklyn Stereography series on the Bertram Mills Circus.
Coco is probably sad – less than 1,000 people have read the photoessay featuring this image!

Doubtful that I’ll ever have satisfactory answers to these questions. Therefore, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing – and adding to it. And that brings us to our next section, because having taken a look at the past, it’s time to move into the future. So we’ll first look at some changes that have been silently introduced, and move on to talking about the future of the blog in general. Then, of course, there will be an anaglyph gallery. And finally, an optional Raumbild section for updates on that front.

Now Showing – on Brooklyn Stereography!

Anaglyph Galleries

An image from the "1933 Carnaval de Nice" series that is the header for the Brooklyn Stereography Anaglyph Gallery.

Every anaglyph which appears on Brooklyn Stereography – and some that don’t – are being added to a series of galleries. This has actually been in the menu bar at the top of your screen for a while, but I never advertised it as I figured it out. Originally a single gallery, it’s now broken into a number of galleries by date range. I chopped it up because, with over 600 anaglyphs and growing, it took forever to load. And I have an ultra-fast connection and a top-notch MacBrook Pro.

So now, you just go to the main “Anaglyph Gallery” page, and from there, you click on the gallery you want. So far, there are seven – and an eighth will likely be coming soon! Thus, when you want to just “3D and Chill”, all you need do is pop on your anaglyphic glasses, choose a gallery, and click the first image. The gallery is scrollable, using the left and right keys. If you want to see a full-screen version of any anaglyph, click on “View Full Size”, and there you are! Comments are also welcome, though based on the 25:1 email:comment ratio on Brooklyn Stereography, I’m guessing that most of you don’t have WordPress logins.

The Brooklyn Stereography Boot Sale

Brooklyn Stereography Boot Sale header image.

Since my wife is fond of not living in something that looks like a “hoarder’s house”, we now have the Boot Sale. It has been suggested that I divest myself of some of the stereographic items lying about. Especially if I continue acquiring more. And I tend to do that. So this page has various things that I’m willing to part with on the cheap for you, my readers.

The Boot Sale is not really intended for serious collectors. Perhaps, in the future, I will make some rare items available. Mainly, however, it attempts to provide those of you who are new to collecting with starter items: bulk cards, anaglyphic glasses, VistaScreen viewers, and so on. There are a few Raumbild cards in there as well, for the curious. And as I’m sorting through the various Holmes-style cards and Tru-Vue rolls in my collection, I’ll be putting some up too. I’ll be adding a handful of travel-related Holmes cards each week, as part of my “Sunday Travels” series. Otherwise, just check in now and again to see if there’s anything you like. You can click on the link in the menu bar, or just click the image above.

The Brooklyn Stereography Guide to VistaScreen

Brooklyn Stereography VistaScreen Guide Title Page Header.

As you’ve likely noticed, I love VistaScreen. In point of fact, my very first series post (revised into Bertram Mills Part I) was on Series C.62 “Bertram Mills Circus”. I’m rather obsessed with this little Anglocentric outfit which managed to produce over 300 series of 10 cards each. Stanley Long, VistaScreen’s principal lensman, was a quirky mix of hard work and lazy photography. Just look at one of his early offerings, on “ZSL London Zoo“. He had a proclivities for composing images without regard to chopping off feet (and heads), shooting nude models recruited from local art schools, and being extremely innovative.

Long took many of his series on day-trips from London, and it shows. He also made longer trips. He rented out a room for a weekend, grabbed a tourist guide, and shot as many glass plates as possible. Some of his work is excellent. Some of his work is terrible. And some of VistaScreen’s series were likely taken by other photographers. In any case, I feel that the company needed its own page here on Brooklyn Stereography.

Why? Because so little information on the company is out there! I can find complete biographies of obscure 19th century stereographers from America. I can’t find a complete series list for VistaScreen. So I’ve decided to create a definitive resource – right here, on Brooklyn Stereography. My own series list is underway. More is coming soon. And I invite all of you to be part of the process!

A question a few of you have asked…

A few readers have written to me in the week or so since the VistaScreen page debuted – why not do one on the Great War? After all, it’s my primary interest, and has by far the most posts of any topic of this site (over 40% of the posts). So why not create a definitive resource on the First World War? Because there already is one! Currently maintained by Doug Jorden, the Boyd/Jordan Collection is where I go in order to figure out the minutia of different manufacturers, variants on card sets, and more. Check it out if you haven’t already!

Coming Soon to Brooklyn Stereography

The Great War

The “Welcome to Brooklyn Stereography” page probably needs an update, because my collection of WWI views has increased quite a bit since the last one. I actually laid off of Great War posts in June and early July on a bet – I went 10 whole posts without so much as a single trench. Admittedly, this was on a bet, but I was able to do it. So there. But I have a lot of material to post, and we’ll get into it by topic here:

The Fasser Collection

A view of the side of the "Rotterdam", with five lifeboats up on winches ready to launch.
Lifeboats on the “Rotterdam”, presumably the ship which returned A.O. Fasser to America in May 1916. From a negative found in his collection, on 6×13 cm glass plate, processed by me, courtesy of the Boyd/Jordan Collection.

Recently, I’ve been scanning the negatives from the Fasser Collection. And in doing so, I’ve found some fascinating things. Many of them are in abysmal condition, due to decades of poor storage by some mongoloid who should never have owned them. But some of them are pristine – like the above image, which could easily be enlarged to a poster-sized print like a proper negative.

The diapositives (viewable slides) in the collection contain many images that Fasser acquired rather than took. I felt it necessary to ascertain (to the best of my ability) which were which. By comparing the negatives with the diapositives, I can rule in certain sets of images. On the flipside, through historical context, I can rule out certain sets of images based on the timeframe – for example, the many stereoviews from the Port of Zeebrugge and the Place de la Concorde. Look for more of Fasser’s collection coming soon on Brooklyn Stereography – and more still in November. Both Fasser’s own work, and views he collected, will be featured.

Other amateur views from the First World War

A group of soldiers standing around a VERY LARGE GUN. Amateur WWI sets are a key element of Brooklyn Stereography.
Three French soldiers (one with the Legion of Honor) standing around a 240mm mortar in a makeshift casemate. Unknown photographer, from a negative on 6x13cm glass, processed by me, courtesy of the Boyd/Jordan Collection.

There is a lot of amateur Great War stereography laying in little cardboard boxes throughout our flat. This is largely because people keep writing to me to offer them (please continue, just don’t tell the wife). How can I say no? And yes, I’ll take small sets with no context. In any case, that leads to a lot of things like the wonderful view that opened this whole post – of the soldier alone on the road. I have a couple of boxes from a period when British soldiers billeted in a small French village. Annoyed soldiers digging trenches. An awesome long gun on rail car (still to be identified).

Also, I have three non-Fasser collections on loan from the Boyd/Jordan Collection that I’ve recently finished scanning. The above image is from one of these collections; the camera has a characteristic defect that leads to uneven base pairs – hence the much larger image on the right. Some of these are in remarkable condition, this one included. Expect to see these on Brooklyn Stereography as well.

Commercial Great War Glass

An image of a skull set up in the bonefields of Fleury - never before seen on Brooklyn Stereography.
LSU 8635 – “Ravin de la Mort derriere Fleury” (“The Ravine of Death behind Fleury”), 45x107mm

Among the things I’ve received in the last months are 3 shipments of LSU slides (many of them scarce), a box containing over 200 Brentano’s slides, and numerous other gems. I’ve already blogged on a couple of individual images – notably the “Mephisto” A7V Tank and Lt. Jean Robert next to a plane he shot down with a carbine rifle. I’ve also posted SDV 41, a series centered around the Second Battle of Verdun, which occurred around Esnes-en-Argonne.

Since I’m still cataloguing and scanning all of these, I’m taking my time posting them – but there’s quite a bit to post, including some images you’ve seen before in higher quality, and I want to be able to group them as logically as possible. That said, some of these boxes I have sitting about include some of the most pristine slides I’ve laid my hands on. Needless to say, they’ll all wind up on Brooklyn Stereography eventually.

November: Remembrance Day & Verdun

The cover of a picture-postcard book on the forts & monuments around Verdun. This was issued shortly after the completion of the Douaumont Ossuary.

For Remembrance Day this year, I’m going to build on last year’s 100 Years of Remembrance post. There will be 101 new images – but this time, by popular demand, I’m going to include more stereoviews of British, Anzac, Colonial, and other Allied troops. I might even throw a handful of AEF shots in there if they eventually show up in my collection! (Sorry, had to go there.) Anyhow, while I won’t be able to daily posts as I did during my marathon “Month of Remembrance” last year, I do have a theme: Verdun. Of course we’ll look at major locations like Fort Vaux and Douaumont, but we’ll also feature locations such as Fort Souville, Bois Bourru, and Côte de Poivre. While we invariably hear more about The Somme (“49,000 killed on the first day!”), I find Verdun to be the most interesting – and horrific – battlefield of the war.

Other Collections, Series, and Manufacturers

Continuing Series

As you might expect, all of the series that are currently underway on Brooklyn Stereography will continue into the next 100 posts. There will be more “one-shot” examinations. There will be more photo galleries, with little context and many images. We’ll continue with Raumbild-Verlag Siegfried Brandmüller’s “Europa” boxed set. (Please note – updates on Raumbild-Verlag Otto Schönstein will follow the anaglyph gallery in this post.) We’ll delve further into Marie-Noëlle’s Collection, and unbox some more “Mystery Boxes”. There will be plenty more random posts, hopefully some penguins, and we’ll definitely continue to enjoy some light-weight “Sunday Travels”.

The Puthon Collection

An image depicting a group of climbers atop a peak, with an impressive mountain range behind. Appearing on Brooklyn Stereography some day - it's in a much later box.
Don’t hold your breath here – you won’t see this part of the collection for quite a while.

As it turns out, I had to “peek ahead” at the Puthon Collection, in direct contradiction to what I promised in the introductory post on it. There is a perfectly salient reason for this – I went to scan the third box, and received a surprise. Instead of a slide of a mountaineering couple in the Alps, I was looking at what appeared to be a night stereoview of Angkor Wat. As it turned out, it was a view from the 1931 Paris Colonial Exhibition. And the entire box was full of them. So I looked ahead – and several boxes had Exhibition slides mixed in. I’ve put these aside, into a separate collection.

The Puthon Collection posts are by far the most time-consuming, considering all the research, comparisons, translations, etc, that go into deciphering and interpreting the slides. As I was recovering from my exciting pancreatitis and the resultant loss of 30 lbs, I was not up for the challenge. Now that I’m feeling better, expect the Puthon Collection to return – at a rate of about one box per month. Box 3 will be out later in August!

Filmstrips: Tru-Vue, Mikro-Kino, Novelview

Outside of a sideshow, with the title "The fat lady and all the rest of Nature's Oddities", a description that probably suits Brooklyn Stereography well. We're certainly odd, though natural is up in the air...
A stereo pair from Tru-Vue 201 – “A Night at the Carnival 1”.

As you might expect, we’ll continue to explore the wacky world of toy format Tru-Vue. The Rock Island Bridge & Iron Works spinoff devoted to stereographic filmstrips, Tru-Vue produced strips on numerous subjects – from “travel” subjects like “NY Chinatown” to advertising strips to burlesque shows, they had it all in the 1930s and 40s. There were other filmstrip manufacturers as well. I’ve shown you the first part of Mikro-Kino’s “By Car Through Finland“. Hopefully, you’re on the edge of your seat with anticipation for more – look for Part 2, coming soon. In the near future, we’ll also take our first look at one of Tru-Vue’s competitors (briefly) – Novelview. Did you know that they produced an entire filmstrip on the Malaria Mosquito? Now you do! Novelview was not in business long…

VistaScreen, VistaScreen, and more VistaScreen!

A stereoview with a boat mooring in the extreme foreground, and a row of tatty-looking sailboats extending out along a pier.
VistaScreen Serie 424 – “Boulgne-Sur-Mer” – with no individual title on the card.

My collection contains a lot of VistaScreen. This is primarily because I chase after every set that isn’t already in my VistaScreen boxes. While VistaScreen is currently tied with Tru-Vue for “most prominent manufacturer on Brooklyn Stereography”, they interest me far more. They company was just so weird! And, to an extent, inscrutable. Hence, I’m fascinated by them, and plan on posting them regularly. Expect VistaScreen to be the second most regular topic on the blog going forward – after the Great War.

Cards such as the one depicted above, from “Serie” 424, “Boulogne-Sur-Mer”, shouldn’t exist. They do, but they don’t make sense in the contextual framework of everything we know about VistaScreen. None of my series lists and order forms contain no-prefix series numbers above 324. Nor do any that I’ve screencapped that are not a part of my collection. Additionally, no information seems to exist on French VistaScreen – although there are clear analogues. Even the card stock this view was printed on differs from the usual VistaScreen stock – while my Serie E.36 “Avions” is exactly like both of my Series 44 “Aeroplanes”, but with French titles. Clearly, there is still a lot to learn. So we’ll learn as we go.

Final Thoughts

It’s been a lot of fun – and very rewarding – starting and building Brooklyn Stereography. Those of you who have been with us for a long time will probably have noticed that the site has evolved quite a bit over time. I hope that those coming to it today have a better experience than early visitors – I think I’ve removed all the broken links, and gotten the site organized pretty well. And a lot of these changes have come from people writing to me – some, long-term correspondents, and some, people who just want to make a simple suggestion. It’s all welcome.

Why I run Brooklyn Stereography

My goals with this site are plentiful. I want to bring stereography to new audiences – I’m nearing on my 39th birthday, and even oldies like myself seem unfortunately unaware of the classical roots of 3D. To many people my age, and certainly to “millenials”, 3D mostly seems to equate to VR or technology like modern 3D movies. Classical stereography has a rich history, and I’d like to be as informative as possible.

Another goal of to share my collection with the world. A lot of people watermark (!) their stereoviews when posting them online. Why? The majority of Holmes-style cards are in the public domain already, and it’s doubtful that anybody from defunct companies like VistaScreen and Tru-Vue cares about copyright. This stuff should be out there for people to enjoy.

Additionally, I want to form new connections in the stereographic community – which has been steadily happening as this blog has grown. And I want people to pitch in and help – with translations, making connections, sharing their own information and so on. Brooklyn Stereography was never meant to exist in a vacuum! So please continue to suggest better captions, tell me about your own journeys in stereography, and so on. And thanks for everything you’ve contributed so far, dear readers!

And that’s about it for my 100th post…

Excepting for – what else? – an Anaglyph Gallery – and updates on Raumbild-Verlag Otto Schönstein productions between 1936 and 1945. To quickly recap for those who have not read the linked post or either of the Paris 1937 posts that are online so far, Raumbild during this era was basically a puppet company of Heinrich Hoffmann and the Nazi party. As such, there are some people who understandably want to avoid Raumbild from this era, and this blog aims to make it easy to do so. So please stop reading after the Anaglyph Gallery if you count yourself among those people. Well! 100 posts – and going stronger than ever. Thanks for reading – keep it up, and I’ll keep writing. Cheers!

Anaglyph Gallery

Nazi-era Raumbild on Brooklyn Stereography

RAUMBILD WARNING: This section contains stereographic images from Raumbild-Verlag Otto Schönstein, a company that was largely controlled by the Nazi party between 1936 and 1945. If you are offended or disturbed by imagery containing Nazi symbols, leaders, salutes, or the like, please click away. In no way do I personally, nor this blog as a forum, support Nazism, and any comments which appear to do so will be removed and their posters blocked.

Raumbild in the Works on Brooklyn Stereography

Raumbild’s “Paris 1937”

A view dominated by the German Pavilion at the 1937 Paris Expo. N.B. Brooklyn Stereography does not condone Nazism in any form!
Raumbild Paris 1937 Bild 34 – German and City of Cologne Pavilions

We’re a quarter of the way into Raumbild’s exploration of the Paris Exhibition Internationale, and we’ve already seen the propagandistic aspects of the work. It clearly attempts to downplay other pavilions, while showing beautiful stereography of the Expo. Soon, however, we’ll be reaching the German Pavilion. Here, we will see a sea change in the attitudes expressed by the author. The stereography, of course, is exceptional throughout. Heinrich Hoffman may have been a nasty person, but he knew his way around a camera!

The Failings of Stereography as a Propaganda Vehicle

An image of Adolf Hitler in his enormous luxury car, well-guarded, in front of an adoring populace. N.B. Brooklyn Stereography does not condone Nazism in any form.
Hitler in his “Großer Mercedes”, from Raumbild’s folio “Reichsparteitag der Ehre”.

On first glance, the above stereoview might seem a glowing example of stereography as a vehicle for propaganda. And if you take either frame from this Heinrich Hoffman stereo pair, it would have been. However, I have formulated a number of arguments against the thesis that stereography can ever be used as effective propaganda. I’m currently using a number of Raumbild texts, as well as alternate sources (as below), to prove my case:

A photograph of the railway station in Danzig (the German name for Gdansk) showing Nazi adornments, including a giant picture of Adolf Hitler. N.B. Brooklyn Stereography does not condone Nazism in any form.
The Gdansk rail station, from Verlag Carl Röhrig’s “Danzig” – a non-Raumbild volume.

One might think that loyal Germans in 1940 would love images that show Danzig adorned in Nazi trappings. And perhaps this is true – Gdansk (the Polish city known as “Danzig” to Germany) readily gave itself over to Germany as soon as they declared war. This was seen as a huge victory – despite that the 95% German-speaking city was already effectively a German puppet state.

But both of these images fail to meet the standards of effective propaganda. They don’t just fail my standards, or general standards – they fail Adolf Hitler’s standards, as elucidated in Mein Kampf! I’m working on a rather academic piece to make this case, and after publication, I will certainly be blogging about it here (if not reprinting it in full or in excerpt). The usual Raumbild Warning will, of course, be applied.

Coming Soon: Reichsparteitag der Arbeit

There are some frightening things happening on the political landscape across the Western world. Many people in many countries have joined nationalistic groups, opposed to the entry of “outsiders”. Groups like Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (formerly the National Front) are gaining ground. Boris Johnson was just elected Prime Minister of Great Britain with 66% of the Tory vote. America’s Donald Trump held a Fourth of July “Celebration” which included a massive military display. The times, they are a-changin’!

Or perhaps not. Back in 1937, the German National Socialist (Nazi) Party held its penultimate Nuremberg Rally. Reichsparteitag der Arbeit – colloquially understood to mean “Nazi Party of Labor” – was the name given to the event, and to the Raumbild album documenting it. Heinrich Hoffman captured some extraordinary images at this gathering, which was supposedly celebrating the reduction of unemployment under Nazi rule. But reduction of unemployment is not a valid measure of a healthy or moral society. And much of what Hoffman captured at this fascist gathering rings eerily true amidst a growing culture of intolerance, of depersonalization, of increasingly open and outspoken objectification of the “other”. At the rally, we see:

The Charismatic Leader

Hitler and his cohorts stand on a platform, majestically looking out at the crowd. N.B. Brooklyn Stereography does not condone Nazism in any form.
Bild nr. 26: Beim Appell des Reichsarbeitsdienstes: Mit freudigem Stolz obachten der Führer und der Organisator des Reichsarbeitsdienstes Pg. Hierl den Aufmarsch (“At the appeal of the Reich Labor Service: The Führer and the organizer of the Reich Labor Service, Pg. Hierl, watched with joyful pride”)

Adolf Hitler was an exceptionally charismatic man. Anybody who denies this, perhaps on the basis of the fact that he was a sociopath, needs to pick up a history book. As it turns out, most sociopaths are charismatic. Hitler was special, though – a fringe-candidate who became Chancellor (against the wishes of ailing President Paul von Hindenburg). Hitler’s cunning and charm won him the title of Führer, a lifetime appointment which cowed the public. Germans with a will to live had two choices: adore Hitler, or fear him enough to pretend to adore him. Marine Le Pen might not be there yet, but she wants to be.

Hitler also excelled at having just the right amount of quirkiness. Thanks to the Führer, no self-respecting person sports a toothbrush moustache anymore. Although tonally he was usually a very serious orator, he knew exactly when to use a pinch of humor. He practiced poses and gestures in front of the mirror. He knew that, to attain power, he had to have a persona. Now consider modern candidates’ signature hairstyles, or lack thereof. Or consider Boris Johnson greeting reporters with a serving tray full of tea – which immediately deflected from questioning about his recent burst of Islamophobia.

The Homogenous Masses

A small part of the huge crowd at Nuremberg - all looking pretty much the same. N.B. Brooklyn Stereography does not condone Nazism in any form.
Bild nr. 56: Beim großen Appell der SA: Die Standarten und Sturmfahnen aus ganz Deutschland sind vor dem Führer aufmarschiert (“At the big appeal of SA: The standards and storm flags from all over Germany were deployed in front of the leader”) N.B. for readers unfamiliar with Nazi Germany: the SA, or “Sturmabteilung“, was the predecessor to the SS, or “Schutzstaffel”. Make no mistake, these were the baddies. And, from Hoffman’s photography, they’re interchangeable – in any given photograph, they’re dressed the same, with the same haircuts, etc.

There are many crowd views contained in Reichsparteitag der Arbeit, and they all have one common element: uniformity. This makes sense at a political rally where the overwhelming zeitgeist was “our kind good, everybody else bad”. The Hitlerjugend (“Hitler Youth”) similarly all look the same. So do their female counterparts, the Bund Deutsche Mädel (“League of German Girls”). Uniformity of look, dress, and action was seen as unity of thought. If Hitler could convince people to uniformly accept his ideas, he believed his power would be absolute.

For the people who attended the 1937 Nuremberg Rally, an armband with a swastika was the defining attire. Modern far-right politicians hold rallies and promote “candidate branded” apparel as well. Some even sell such apparel on their websites – profiting while simultaneously raising “brand awareness”. And heavens forbid you attend their rallies without the omnipresent article of clothing – you want to fit in, right? You want to support the cause, right? You’re not one of THEM, right?

Military Might Displayed

A parade of tanks, with one of them dominating the field of view. N.B. Brooklyn Stereography does not condone Nazism in any form.
Bild nr. 91: Am Tag der Wehrmacht: Die Tanktruppe (“On the day of the Wehrmacht: The tank crew”)

The Nazi government – by which I mainly mean Hitler and Goebbels – were the brain of Germany during the Third Reich. The German people, by loyalty or through fear, were its body. The Gestapo and Schutzstaffel were its right hand, smiting those that got in their way or disagreed with their racial purity programs. And the Wehrmacht, the Kriegsmarine, and the Luftwaffe were two things: its left hand – smiting enemy combatants – and something far more phallic, as show here.

When a nation trots out its military like an avatar of its virility, every thinking person should wonder about the meaning of this. Are they posturing? Is the message something akin to “We are the Greatest Nation! Don’t you dare challenge us!”? Are they showing true might and the willingness to use it? Or are they simply celebrating their military?

Ask someone like Adolf Hitler or Joseph Goebells this question back in 1937, and you’ll probably hear that it’s simply a show of solidarity and patriotism. As, of course, was the whole rally! Just about a month ago, on America’s birthday (4 July), we trotted out tanks, planes, soldiers, and so on – in a “Salute to America”! This is something that hadn’t been done since shortly after the Allies defeated Hitler in the Second World War. And premium tickets to the event were handed out to the ruling party faithful – gratis.

So isn’t this going to be controversial?

Of course, Raumbild is the most controversial of the stereography outfits that I blog on, and in our current political climate, the Nuremberg Rally images are probably particularly incendiary. As a matter of principle, I try to keep politics out of my blogging, but that’s simply not possible here. Instead of trotting out the old “Those that forget the past” line, I’ll phrase it more personally. I think that having open conversations about these sorts of topics, rather than keeping mum, is the best way to avoid having increasingly blusterous fascist rallies in the future.

Fascist thought lines generally want people to keep their mouths shut and just march along in lock-step. Wear the right baseball cap, tow the party line, and don’t you dare contradict! I cannot abide this line of thinking. By looking into the past, in a sense we are also looking at a version of a possible future. At a time when rising racism, homophobia, ableism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, et. al, are all not only tolerated – but actively encouraged – by some politicians, we need to look back at what happened when past politicians thought that way. “Lest we forget” shouldn’t just be a saying that applies to the Great War.

And besides – there will be Raumbild Warnings on every post. I don’t want anybody coming to Brooklyn Stereography to be upset by what they view, and I want to be perfectly clear that viewing Raumbild posts is totally at the reader’s informed discretion.

Raumbild Anaglyphs

One final thought, before you put on your cyan-and-rose-tinted glasses – in terms of messaging, it should be fairly obvious that I have no respect or tolerance for fascism or for fascists. But just as I can say that Richard Wagner was a terrible person and still consider him the greatest operatic composer in history, I can say without reservation that Heinrich Hoffmann was an immensely talented photographer, both classically and stereographically. I explored the dilemma of enjoying artworks created by scumbags in my second Paris 1937 post. Without a doubt, Hoffman was a damnable Nazi. Without a doubt, he was also the creator of some wonderful stereoviews. And I’ll leave it at that.

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