Thursday, October 01, 2009

Hi-Def Make-Up For A Lo-Def World

We here at HuZzah! Vintage have a day job of sorts that demands that we read and write and think about television so that we may one day begin producing periphrastic books about its untold complexity that perhaps seven people will actually ever come to read (or, more likely, skim for cheap moments of rhetorical weakness in the desperate minutes leading up to a graduate seminar meeting).

In the throws of some of this week's research, we came across a veritable treasure trove of photographs depicting some of the earliest experimental television transmissions commissioned by NBC and RCA in the 1930s. As magnetic tape had not yet been invented and other means of recording these ephemeral blips were expensive and cumbersome, images such as these of television's gestational period are incredibly rare (and, I think, incredibly haunting in their nebulousness). 




Pictured Above: Rare photographs of early (mid-1930s) experimental television transmissions via the truly incredible and surreal private collection of Russian inventor and "father of television" Vladimir Zworykin

Less moving images of people than shadows, these photo stills illustrate the necessity of making up the face in hilariously exaggerated ways to ensure a mechanically 'readable' likeness. Though they looked absurd in real life, the painted people of the then very small screen appeared normal to the unwitting television viewer--much like the elderly cast of Desperate Housewives does to us today (though by virtue of Botox and intricate lighting, presumably).

Pictured Above: (Top) Unlike Richard Nixon c.1960, Minnesota democrat Hubert Humphrey wasn't too macho to wear a little rouge in his bid for political glory [1948, Life] (Bottom) Articles illustrating the make-up requirements for early television [1938, Popular Science; 1939, Mechanix Illustrated]


calivintage said...

oh these pictures are so haunting and unreal. very cool finds.

and yes, i snatched up those shoes like 5 minutes after she put them up! but don't forget the thrill of the hunt! ;)

Desiree said...

LinkWithin pointed me to this gem. This is so interesting, especially the last two articles from LIFE. I always thought makeup was so interesting (my second choice for a career is this whole being a journalist thing doesn't work out.) It also makes me feel like less of a creep for looking out for men on TV whose eyeliner is really obvious.