Using an “imperfect image” in your book

“Imperfect Image”

Nopsi 853 imperfect image

NOPSI 857 at Carrollton Station

“Imperfect Image” – it just might be perfect for your book

We presented a bit of background on NOPSI 857 in our previous post. Streetcars and transit are popular photos in history books. They represent movement, growth, development. In many cases, they also represent a point in history that’s gone, now that buses and more-modern street rail vehicles dominate public transit.

In this image, the photographer left out the right side of the streetcar. It may be they focused on the left side for a particular reason. Many photos from this particular collection were used in court cases. The photographers focused on particular parts of the car.

What works about this photo

Even though it’s a partial image of NOPSI 853, this photo offers interesting details. The 7-Up ad on the front is clear. So is the roll board. The car sits at the back of the station. The street outside (Jeanette St. in uptown New Orleans) is visible.

Related photos

imperfect image

NOPSI 813 at Carrollton Station, 1948

While this photo alone has interesting elements, it works well in conjunction with related photos. Here’s NOPSI 813, on Jeanette Street. So, this streetcar is about to enter the barn, and 857 is already there. The combination becomes a scene. Add an overall shot of the barn and the story grows.

Story Options

What’s the story here? Life near a streetcar barn? Things in Uptown New Orleans? Streetcars traveling around the city? Corporate history? Add a photo you know captures the reader’s interest. Its relevance to a topic may be tangential, but it gets the reader through a slow part of your overall story.

Apply the concept

You have approximately 300 images related to your subject. Not all of them are “perfect” at first glance. Some are interesting, though. Creativity gives you the edge.

Even if you use an “imperfect image”.

NOPSI 857 at Carrollton Station #streetcars #transit

NOPSI 857 at Carrollton Station #streetcars #transit


NOPSI 857 – Streetcar in Uptown New Orleans

New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) streetcar 857, entering Carrollton Station. The streetcar turned off of S. Carrollton Avenue, onto Jeanette Street. This is the back of the streetcar barn. The streetcar pulled in, and likely pulled up further on the track. It was then in position to pull out the front of the barn, on Willow Street.

The “roll board” indicates 857 operated on the St. Charles Belt on the day of this photograph.

Perley Thomas Arch Roof Design

This streetcar is one of the 800-series of arch roof streetcars operated by NOPSI. Perley A. Thomas developed the original design when he worked for Southern Car Company of High Point, NC, in the early 1900s. The design was perfect for the climate in New Orleans.

NOPSI’s predecessor, New Orleans Railway and Light, bought Thomas’ arch roofs from Southern Car in the 1910s. They worked so well that NOPSI continued operating those original streetcars and ordered more. There are still 35 of the 900-series (vintage 1924) in service on the city’s St. Charles Avenue line.

The 800-series were discontinued by NOPSI in 1964. In that year, the company dropped streetcar service on its Canal Street line. Air-conditioned buses replaced the arch roofs in May of that year. A few of the 800s were sold to private concerns, but most of them were destroyed. NOPSI didn’t want preservationists to prevent them from replacing as many streetcars as possible with buses. If the streetcars didn’t exist, there was no going back.

The Canal Street line operated with buses from 1964 to 2004. The line is the subject of my Images of America book, New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line.

Why NOPSI 857?

One of our objectives with Arcadia Coach is to discuss technique. What is it about an image that works and doesn’t work? When does the author include a photo that “breaks the rules”?

I want to talk about “recommended practices” but not in a vacuum. So, before we get into the editorial aspects, we’ll talk about the history of a photo.