Glimpses of Evidence

As anyone who collects old photographs will know, there is often nothing to tell us either the name of the sitter or the date on which the image was captured. However, the examples below all have inscriptions that tell us something of when, or why, they were taken or who the subject was.

The first row contains three images typical of the 1860s, with ornate backdrops or sturdy Victorian furniture much in evidence. The sitters in the full-length portraits remain anonymous, however.

By the 1870s, the photographer had more varied techniques to hand. Mrs Hunter and small child are photographed in an outdoor setting, with a view of the garden. The photographer who captured Mrs Minchin’s image had forsaken the full length pose and gone closer in on his subject. This three quarter length pose remained in favour into at least the 1880s, as can be seen in the portrait of Frances, who sends photo and love to Sissie.

Eleanor Frean’s portrait illustrates another variation, that of the vignette. She was a member of a famous biscuit making family and more of her story can be seen in the ‘Lives from the Family Album’ section of the blog.

The two remaining images were evidently taken only a month apart in 1884, both in Taunton (in Somerset) but by different photographers. The dates on the backs of each photo are both in the same hand, suggesting some connection between the two sitters. Were they sweethearts, brother and sister, or even husband and wife? As always, with no names to go on, I guess we’ll never know.


About qvictoria

A collector of Victorian photographs for many a long year. I'm interested in both the individual photographs and the studio advertising on the 'backs' of the images, Victorian graphic design at its most varied and interesting. My collection of "cartes de visite" photographs is housed in plastic pockets within a series of albums, numerically arranged in order as they are acquired. There are now roughly 3000 photographers and images in all. I use directories, newspapers and genealogical information to research the life and work of each photographer and their studio but there aren't enough hours in the day. This photo is one of my collection, chosen for the gentle expression in the face of the sitter.
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4 Responses to Glimpses of Evidence

  1. The necklace of the woman in the first photo is really long! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a large bow at the waist, either. Regarding poses, in general I like three-quarter length the best. It makes me feel like I’m having an intimate conversation with the sitter.

  2. Thank you for sharing! I love a dated photo. What an education they offer!

    • qvictoria says:

      I agree but evidence is often quite hard to find here, whereas on your side of the pond much more seems readily available. Where I can I write up a short resume of the sitter and put it on the ‘Family Album’ section of the blog. It is great to share!

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