Photographs of Reveal Victorian Monsters

I am secretly in love with all things Victorian. Old locks, vintage recipes, tea cups, and yes, photographs. Then I stumbled onto the art of  Colin Batty. He takes old photos and tintypes and paints on the actual print to create a new, surreal, scene. Yes, you heard me right, no photoshop in sight. This is a time honored technique done by the Victorians themselves.

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Since the first daguerreotypes hit the world in 1839, people have painted on the photos. To a modern person, this seems bizarre, but to a Victorian, a photograph is nothing different than a canvas where the lines have already been drawn. Originally, people wanted to make the image realistic, and that meant color. They used watercolors, oils, crayons or pastels. To learn more about painting on photos, visit Janine Kilroe’s site.

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Color and realism are not the aim of artist Colin Batty. He took up his brush to transform estate sale photos into creepy images that scare and excite the viewer. Batty hails from Manchester, England and has worked on films like Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks as well as the Oscar-nominated short The Sandman.

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Seeing Batty’s work, I can’t help but think of the Peculiar Children series written by Ransom Riggs. Riggs also digs up estate photos from years ago. Although these photos are unaltered (at least by him) and serve as inspiration for his story.

Addison, a peculiar dog

Addison, a peculiar dog

One other artist springs to mind when you look at Batty’s surreal Victorian images, and that’s Travis Louie. He hand paints each figure to resemble the old daguerreotypes prints. He does this to have full control of the image, whereas Batty simply modifies the image.

Cynthia Smithson

Cynthia Smithson

I swear, you get the three of these guys together, and they could outfit an entire gallery.

Happy viewing,

Tim Kane

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Is the Steampunk Mechanical Hand a Reality?

Rasputin's Steampunk Hand

Okay, so the mechanical construct Rasputin wore in the first Hellboy movie was actually a glove, but it illustrates the dream of steampunk aficionados everywhere: The Mechanical Hand. With today’s robotic technology, we should have Luke Skywalker hands. Right? But what about the heyday of the Victoria? Could gears make the cut?

Victorian Prosthesis

It turns out there was a macabre looking Victorian prosthesis on display in the London Science Museum. This construct of steel and brass articulates at the elbow via a spring, and the wrist joint rotates and moves up and down just like the real McCoy. The fingers curl up to grip items. This was the actual appearance, so the arm was most likely concealed with a glove.

This doesn’t offer much support for the mechanical arm. Yet, if you travel back another 400 years, you’ll find the legendary Gottfried von Berlichingen (aka Götz of the Iron Hand).

The German "Iron Hand" Mercenary

This German mercenary lost his right hand from a cannonball in 1504. He commissioned a custom mechanical hand that connected to his elbow. This remarkable feat of engineering contained spring mechanisms, buttons, and levers that allowed the fingers to operate with amazing dexterity. It earned him is nickname: “that one of the iron hand” (mit to der eisernen Hand).

Strap on super gauntlet

Gottfried’s iron fingers were controlled with ten mechanical wheels. These were sensitive enough to grip a sword (for terrorizing wealthy nobles), or clutch a quill (to write those ransom notes).

Medieval Skywalker hand

So there you have it. Looking back at Army of Darkness, the machination banged out for Ash looks pretty plausible now.

Give me some sugar baby

My question, why don’t we have more cool mechanical prostheses? If a German noble could bang it out 500 years ago, why can’t we? This historical precedent bodes well for all those steampunk constructs.

Tim Kane