IM­AGE FROM THE PAST

Your old pho­to­graphs an­a­lysed by our ex­pert Au­drey Linkman

Your Family History - - Contents - By Au­dreyLinkman Au­drey Linkman writes and lec­tures on pho­to­his­tory, spe­cial­is­ing in fam­ily and do­mes­tic photography. Her book, The Vic­to­ri­ans: Pho­to­graphic Por­traits (Tau­ris Parke Books, 1993), ex­plores the his­tory, con­tent and mean­ing of the Vic­to­rian f

Au­drey Linkman tells a reader more about a fam­ily wed­ding.

This month we are analysing four post­card por­traits sent by Clare Tasker of Tame­side, near Manch­ester. Al­though pic­ture post­cards were avail­able from the 1890s, the post­card for­mat was only adopted for por­trai­ture in the very early years of the 20th cen­tury – around 1902. It quickly es­tab­lished it­self as the most pop­u­lar pro­fes­sional for­mat, and re­mained on sale in Bri­tain into the 1950s.

ED­WARD WED­DING

Al­though wealthy fam­i­lies com­mis­sioned out­door wed­ding groups from an early date, this op­tion only be­came avail­able to work­ing fam­i­lies fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of the gela­tine dry plate, and its sub­se­quent com­mer­cial man­u­fac­ture from 1879. In­creas­ingly, com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­phers aban­doned their studios to pho­to­graph sit­ters at their front door, gar­den gate or in the back yard. These out­door por­traits en­abled fam­i­lies to com­mis­sion pho­to­graphs to be taken on the actual wed­ding day with guests and par­tic­i­pants dressed in wed­ding fin­ery. Pho­tog­ra­phers placed the most im­por­tant sub­jects at the cen­tre of the group, and ar­ranged the oth­ers in or­dered tiers to en­sure ev­ery face was vis­i­ble. It ap­pears to have taken a lit­tle time to de­velop an agreed eti­quette of po­si­tion­ing. A pho­tog­ra­pher seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion of this mat­ter in 1903 was sim­ply in­formed by The Bri­tish Jour­nal of Photography that the bride was usu­ally posed on the left of her hus­band.

The ladies’ elab­o­rate, broad-brimmed hats, dec­o­rated with flow­ers, lace and feathers are per­haps the most con­spic­u­ous clue to a date in first decade of the 20th cen­tury. Many of the gen­tle­men are wear­ing white, starched, rounded col­lars worn turned down with a long-knot­ted tie, a com­bi­na­tion that came to typ­ify the Ed­war­dian pe­riod. Lit­tle boys at that time usu­ally wore shorts suits adorned with promi­nent white col­lars, as we see here. Ba­bies and tod­dlers, too, were fre­quently dressed in elab­o­rate out­fits in­clud­ing great, dec­o­ra­tive, bon­nets.

Un­for­tu­nately, this pho­to­graph ap­pears to be los­ing de­tail. The blacks are get­ting darker and the whites are bleach­ing out. This is par­tic­u­larly no­tice­able in the top left cor­ner over the win­dow, which bleeds into a black blob, and in the bot­tom right cor­ner, where the women’s dresses have some­how faded into the pave­ment. This may be the re­sult of in­suf­fi­cient wash­ing-out of chem­i­cals at the pro­duc­tion stage. If so, this process will con­tinue to erode the de­tail. It would there­fore be ad­vis­able to cre­ate a good qual­ity copy of this pho­to­graph in order to pre­serve a record of the de­tail that re­mains.

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