Photography During The Holidays; Dust Off Your Cameras And Let The Photo Barrage Begin!
"Fun for all that children call their favorite time of the year."--Bill Melendez
During the holidays many people dust off their cameras and take lots of pictures. Besides cute kids opening their presents many shutterbugs' favorite photo subject is a house decorated with seasonal lights. If you've ever wondered how this custom was started, this month's column will shed some light on the subject. Thomas Edison invented the world's first practical light bulb in 1879. Just a few years later an associate of Edison's, Edward Johnson, added electric lights to a Christmas tree in the parlor of his New York home located in the first section of the city wired for electricity.
The Antique Christmas Lights Museum website offers information about the development of electric Christmas lighting in America between 1900-'50, the years that Webmaster George Nelson considers to be the Golden Age of electric Christmas lighting. On this site you'll learn all about holiday lighting and see how it has changed over the years. I was surprised to learn that before 1900 most families in America did not light their trees at all, although a few used candles with glass cups called Fairy Lights. A bucket of sand or water was placed nearby for the inevitable emergency and many trees used a "Christmas rug" under the tree (the forerunner of today's tree skirt) to keep wax drippings off of the floor. The site contains a Table of Contents, the most comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions section I've seen, and a search engine that lets you quickly find topics of interest.
My search for "bubble lights" showed 15 hits, including wonderful photographs of NOMA's prototype from `45. A look at postwar bubble lights shows a wide assortment of lights from Nelson's private collection (sorry, none are for sale) that he's expertly photographed. These lights were available from many manufacturers and clickable images show the lights and their delightfully designed packaging. Nelson is to be congratulated for his photographic expertise as well as the details he provides on finding, using, repairing, and enjoying holiday lighting.
When Miss Piggy said, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye," she could have been talking about this site. Helmed by none other than "Santa" himself, this site displays photographs of houses where the residents are celebrating a happy holiday, but "have no sense of decency in how they choose to celebrate." The site is supposed to show the "garish, the ugly, the weird," but is nonetheless a lot a fun. In addition to Santa's Blog there's a brief section offering practical tips on photographing holiday lighting displays. You can even e-mail submissions to be posted in a collection of galleries that includes an archive with photographs of the "original inspiration" up to a collection of holiday images from 2005.