German soldier, 1913

By: usermattw

Dec 26 2012

Tags: , , ,

Category: Men


Click here to view it larger.

What it is:

Cabinet card measuring approx. 3.25 x 7.5 inches.

What I know about it:

Photographer is Atelier Ideal of Hamburg, Germany.  (“Atelier Ideal” would translate to Ideal Photo Studio.  Ideal is the same word in English and German, though pronounced differently.  And “Atelier” is a French word adopted in German like “chauffeur” and “ingenue” are French words used in English.)  Written on the back in pencil is 22.12.1913, which would be the date December 22, 1913.


This is another one of the photos my friend Christine (“harriedcostumer”) brought back for me from her time in Hamburg.  It’s almost exactly 99 years old, which is the sort of thing that always amazes me when I bother to stop and think about it.  Also, this photo was taken on the eve of World War I, and I can only imagine the trials this young man faced in the coming years, assuming he even survived it.  By the way, he seems to be holding something in his right hand.  Can anybody tell what that is?

10 comments on “German soldier, 1913”

  1. Ordinarily, I’d guess those were gloves in his hand, but I don’t know why they’d be rolled up as they appear to be.

  2. It looks like he’s stuffed one inside the other, if they’re gloves. Somehow this doesn’t seem completely wrong to me, as if I’ve seen them that way before, but I can’t remember where or why.

  3. Matt, I don’t know why I didn’t even think of the “WW1 eve” aspect of this photo before!

    • I think virtually any period in history could be considered to be near some calamitous event, making such associations common and therefore easily ignored.

  4. A bar of soap for a dip in the foaming brine?

    There’s something both hopeful and sinister to me in putting a soldier before a backdrop of the ocean. Human vs. nature, military rigidity vs. fluid movement, command vs. flow.

    He looks as though he’s pretending to be anything but scared. Like most young soldiers.

    • To me it looks like a wadded up handkerchief, but I can’t imagine the photographer wouldn’t have said something. That’s interesting, I hadn’t even considered the juxtaposition of the backdrop.

  5. Could it be a rabbit’s foot?
    I’m fascinated by this odd size/proportion carte. I have a couple in my collection and they’re all from northern/eastern Europe. It seems to be something of a regionalized variation – the rest of the cartes/cabinet cards I have from everywhere else pretty much conform to the sizes/proportions of 2 1/2″ x 4″ / 5″x7″-ish. Although I have a late Imperial Russian cabinet card that is “American”/”Western” sized (for lack of a better term). But then again, Imperial Russia for centuries was trying to be more Westernized – the court language was French, not Russian.

    • Yes, I’ve been curious about the ones that don’t conform to what we consider a standard size. And you’re right, my completely unscientific observations (based on my own collection) have been that these come from northern and eastern Europe. (This is the third cabinet card I’ve posted from Hamburg, and they’re all about this size.) Part of me assumes it was too much to expect the entire world to adhere to identical photography standards when parts of it were still struggling to standardize basic things like spelling. And then I remember that even today there are differences in things like the size of letter paper (Americans using 8.5 x 11, while Europe and Japan use A4.) I’m still struggling with what to call the ones that are the size of a CDV but use the materials (thick boards, gilt lettering, beveled edges, etc.) of cabinet cards. Those are also largely from northern and eastern Europe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: