Another Look (Street)
Smithsonian photography curator Merry Foresta
recommends looking closely at the edges of a photograph. They are the borders
between what we choose to include in the picture and what we choose to leave
It looks as if the
photographer meant to include these things. They are dovecotes, where carrier
pigeons were kept. The telegraph came to San Francisco around the time of this
picture. Before, pigeons were used to carry messages.
Look! Here is one of the new telegraph poles.
Look! This building is the headquarters of the Pacific
Express, the brand-new telegraph company.
Here is a Chinese immigrant
in a rickshaw. Rickshaw drivers delivered telegraph messages around San Francisco.
San Francisco was a booming town in the 1850s. It is ten till three in the afternoon. Where is everybody?
Merry thinks this blur is a
group of pedestrians who are moving too quickly to be seen. The exposure time
for this picture was about fifteen seconds.
Shadow are cast by the
buildings on the left. What might account for this isolated shadow?
Actually, it is not a
shadow. It is probably an image of the buggy that is moving away from us. The
buggy probably stopped there just long enough to show up as a dark spot.
The picture seems to tell the story of a new
technology, the telegraph, replacing an old means of communication, the
pigeon. Who would want to tell this story? Probably not someone in the pigeon
A method for printing photographs was invented in the
1850s. Photos could now be used for many purposes. The telegraph company
probably hired the photographer. The picture may have been used as an