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.