This picture is being shared with the suggestion that it is a genuine Victorian photograph showing a man, sometimes identified as “Hugh Hefner’s grandpa”, standing with several young ladies who are all wearing rabbit ears.
That is not the case.
The only mention of a ‘Jack Rabbit club’ is in regards to a veteran’s sports club, founded in 1891.
Although it is possible that a few ladies sooner or later were invited to the club and posed for a photo, it seems unlikely.
When I tracked down the original image, I discovered the copyright mention in the corner, which appears to have mysteriously vanished from many versions being shared online.
Finding that made tracing the true origin of this image relatively easy.
The photo itself is real but has been altered by British born artist, photographer and graphic designer Steven Cook for his ‘Alternity’ series that was exhibited in 2002.
For this collection he created strange and wonderful scenes by mixing his own photography with old photos, with unusual and sometimes magical situations as a result.
Mr Cook explains;
Alternity began about 5 years ago when I started collecting old photographs and carte de visites of people. I’d be sifting through thousands of the things and every once in a while there would be a character who stood out from the rest – someone who wasn’t looking stiff, uptight and scared of losing their soul to the camera. They shone. Maybe they had an enticing smirk or twinkle in the eye. These were the photos I’d buy.
I began to wonder why people always looked as if they belonged to their own particular era and whether they’d look out of place in the 21st century wearing contemporary fashions.
As an experiment I started to scan the photos and swap bits around digitally. Things got especially interesting when I began scanning from my own negatives and dropping those into the melange.
It might be a shop front from Brooklyn; a heavily tattooed Betti Marenko; a photo I took of Andy Warhol; Canary Wharf underground station, or a backdrop from Rennes-le-Chateau in France. I discovered that I was creating something completely new by sampling and re-mixing images in this way.
As the series developed, I noticed that the characters from the historic photographs were becoming more and more liberated. It seemed as if they were breaking out of their own repressed age and were starting to interact with the 21st century. Perhaps they were ahead of their time… or had they discovered fourth dimensional travel?
With Alternity I have created my own version of the past, resurrecting these people from their long forgotten existence, giving them their fifteen minutes of fame – posthumously.
Steven Cook, London 2002
After finding the source of the picture I got in touch with Mr. Cook who was kind enough to answer all my questions.
Unfortunately the original, unedited photo is currently lost in his archives so I couldn’t add it here as the ultimate proof.
If it eventually turns up, I will update this article.
Mr. Cook also confirmed that he added the sign above the door to the picture and obviously the bunny ears are also not original.
So besides not crediting the artist and owner of the picture people are sharing it online without mentioning (or even realising) that it is not a genuine photo and are thus spreading fake history.
If you see the picture shared online with the incorrect description, please direct the person posting it to this article.
Picture(s) found online, used for (re-)educational purposes only.
I do not own the copyrights to this picture, I only share it here for educational purposes to try and make sure the real story behind it becomes known and people will stop spreading false information.