It’s Only a Paper Moon: Good Times, Vintage Portraits

Paper Moon 12

Long before Instagram, photo booths or even the common ownership of a camera, you could get your photograph taken sitting on the moon. Often a fixture at fairs, parties and carnivals, people sat in the crescent of a smiling “paper moon,” as if lifted to the stars. A photographic phenomena primarily of the early half of the 20th century, it captivated the imagination of a world pre-Photoshop and gave many a memorable image of great times.

These selected images, from Flickr group It’s Only a Paper Moon, are a vision of that bygone era, complete with stylish vintage fashions. The era is excellently captured in the award winning 1973 film, Paper Moon, featuring Ryan & Tatum O’Neil. This touching and highly entertaining black and white period piece centers around the Great Depression in America and the bonding of two very unlikely friends – a young girl and a hustler selling bibles to the families of the recently deceased. In one of the film’s more poignant moments we are treated to Tatum O’Neil getting her picture taken on a paper moon at the county fair.

An interesting fact about most examples of paper moon photographs is that we can see stars in the center of the moon’s crescent… something which in reality is blocked by the darkly shadowed sphere of the moon. It was clearly something not understood in the pre-space travel era of early 20th century America and still frequently overlooked today.

Paper Moon 1

Paper Moon 2

Paper Moon 3

Paper Moon 4

Paper Moon 5

Paper Moon 6

Paper Moon 7

Paper Moon 8

Paper Moon 9

Paper Moon 10

Paper Moon 11


There are 3 comments

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  1. Emily Desmond

    About the stars not being able to show up where the moon mass (even when reflected in crescent) would still be, that’s true. I had not thought of that. But neither would the people be able to perch upon the crescent that way. Nor would they be that big in relation to the moon. Nor would the moon have a smiling face on it (as it does in some examples). Nor would they survive in that atmosphere. So reality is probably not what they were going for. Just sayin’.

    Fun article.

    EM :)

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