Looking through the c-d-v photographs in my collection, it seems that many were taken to mark special occasions. A recent clutch of images, taken in 19th century Germany, gave several examples of this trend.
This first image shows a chubby baby, resplendent in frilled bonnet and a long white gown, decorated with a large bow. It seems clear that this was taken on the day of the child’s baptism, when the infant was received into the church and set upon their life’s path. On the reverse of the photograph are the details of the photographer, William Roth Vorm of Berlin. The date was 29th March 1914 and Europe was about to be plunged into war.
Moving to another special occasion, we see a young boy, bearing a candle adorned with a pale bow and standing before an altar. In his left he grasps his cap and it is possible that this photograph was taken, by Herr Glaser of Straubing, to mark the occasion of his confirmation.
Another occasion, often marked in Britain, is the coming of age of the sitter. Here are two examples from 1884, one by Mr Treble of Norwich, the other by Walter Clayton of Leicester. Backed up by evidence from the census returns, they show that Florence Rinder and George Twigger both reached the age of twenty one in that year. Florence went on to become a registered nurse while George made his living as a commercial clerk.
Moving further along life’s road we see a young couple on the threshold of marriage in an image captured by Paul Heinelt of Zittau. In one hand the bride holds her bouquet while her other is slipped into the arm of her new husband. Another photograph stands on the little table at their side, displaying an unknown woman. She clearly had significance for one of the couple, perhaps a loved relative who through death or disease was unable to attend their happy day.
These images are just ghosts of people who lived and loved, laughed and cried, celebrated and mourned. What they share is a common humanity, stretching out to us across the years.