The Victorian family album is one of the few surviving records of everyday life in the second half of the 19th century. This book is a comprehensive study of portrait photography in Victorian times. Portrait photography began with the introduction of the daguerrotype process in 1839. This established photography as an alternative to painting but, at first, photographers continued to be strongly influenced by painting traditions. Early photographers, therefore, imitated art, rather than exploiting the realism of this important new genre. It was not long, however, before photographic studios were travelling the country in caravans, and itinerant photographers could be found the length and breadth of the country - on street corners, at fairgrounds and at the seaside. By establishing photography as a form of cheap, popular entertainment in this way, these early photographers eventually paved the way for the more relaxed conventions of modern family photographs. This book is an entertaining history of this fascinating subject. Illustrated with a great variety of portraits, together with biographies of characters featured, this book offers readers a rare glimpse of these real-life characters who gaze at us from another era.Blackwell North Amer
Victorian family photographs are always compelling, especially if they are portraits of our own ancestors, but also for the imagined lives of their unknown subjects. They constitute a unique domestic record, giving an invaluable insight into ordinary lives during the second half of the nineteenth century. This book is the first comprehensive study of Victorian portrait photography, discussing both its technical innovations and its cultural conventions. It investigates in depth the history of the commercial photographer in Britain between the early 1840s, when the first high street studios opened, and 1900. During these years portraits sold in their millions to a mass market, initiating a trend which spread worldwide.
The story of portrait photography in Britain starts with the publication of the daguerreotype process in France in 1839, which established photography as an alternative to painted portraiture. At first photographers were strongly influenced by painting traditions, and expression, pose, backgrounds and accessories imitated art rather than exploiting the realism of the new genre.
By the 1860s the small carte de visite format of portraits meant that cheap photographs could be exchanged between family and friends. The market exploded and photographic studios proliferated, recording children from christening gown to long trousers, marriage partners in all their finery, prestigious personal achievements and even loved ones in post mortem images.
The photographic studio was under the strict control of the photographer, who mastered his subjects as a painter would have done, controlling their serious facial expressions, often dressing them for the part or clamping their heads and bodies still in outrageous contraptions in order to allow for the exposures. Travelling studios were set up in caravans transported to outlying parts of the country, and itinerant photographers took portraits on street corners, outside public houses, at fairgrounds and at the seaside. Towards the end of the century gravity of demeanour began to give way to smiles, and the 'poke your head through' backdrop paved the way for our own convention in family photographs - the ear-to-ear grin.
This fascinating book tells an invaluable and amusing history of Victorian portrait photography. It is extensively illustrated with a great variety of appealing portraits, with captions explaining the pictures and often giving biographical details of the characters who gaze at us from another era. It also provides details for the general reader of the history and identification of photographs, explaining the context and meaning of the portraits handed down to us from our great-grandparents.