The Crossroads of the Aether
Bonjour! Mademoiselle Suzette Cherie...
I was searching online to try and find out why the mothers [and if you follow the link to Hidden Mothers in Victorian Portraits... there is at least one father in a portrait that is hidden...Because women didn't wear pants during that period. [at least, as far, as I know women during the Victorian period didn't wear pants...as I shrug my shoulders...]
Unfortunately, I'm unfamiliar with this ritual during that period... very strange... too!
merci, for sharing...mlle. deedee gauzot :)
I agree, I found fathers hidden as well in a few of the photos. I found this subject so interesting that it will keep me occupied for a few weeks. I found other oddities as well but I will not knowingly post any Memento Mori photographs and I'll be sure to share my other findings soon, but, get ready to shiver.
I found it creepy as well. I found mucho macabre photos and I'll share more as I go along. I bet you'll never look at a old photo the same way again. chuckles
The answer is quite simple. The exposure time of early period photographs are such that any movement during the two to five minute plus exposure time would blur the photo. The earlier the photo era and technique, the longer the exposure times and the longer absolute stillness needed. To take the photo a bright day was needed and the photographer simply took off the lens cap for a predetermined time to all the emulsion to be properly exposed and the silver crystals to absorb just the right amount of reflected light through the lens. Then the lens was recapped. For adults it was arduous enough to hold still, so hidden head braces and head clamps were arranged out of sight.
When dealing with children and even worse pets, holding still was nearly impossible. A child seeing its mother nearby would want to be held and comforted while in a strange room with strange people and strange apparatus was engaged. The simple technique of having the hidden mother or nanny was an expedient for taking a solo portrait of the child. Rarer still are early pet photos. Later, faster emulsions allowed for shorter exposure time and when flash photography, you had even faster times. Of course, you still couldn’t have any real movement, which is why even by the Civil War, outside action photos, even on bright days was not possible.
A googling of the history of early photography will easily turn up more information on daguerreotypes and ferrotype photography and the like. The subject simply fills up books. Thank you for posting these enjoyable historical photos. Also thank you for not posting post-mortem/memento mori photos – I collect a wide range of photos, those included, but they require the proper respect and understanding, not often found on the internet. You might enjoy a post I made a while back about the lucrative trade in counterfeit and fake photos now plaguing Ebay: http://southcoastantiques.blogspot.com/2011/05/tintypes-ferrotypes-...
Thank you CoastConFan. I took a look at the link and found this so fascinating, and photographer Mr. Decker has earned my respect. I am now wondering about the interlocking of arms between the 2 soldiers photographed on one of the tins. Were they brothers, and they seem to be not the same race? It's a puzzle I'll have fun looking in to.
While signs of affection between the sexes were highly regulated by custom, even among spouses, the Victorian man was not so constrained when posing in a photo with a brother, close friend or even a trusted employee. Linked arms or a hand on the shoulder showed friendship and association in these photos. Women held hands and linked arms in some photos and small children where held.
The Victorian body language while highly constrained publicly with the opposite sex, held no barrier in showing fraternal affection. Today many people misunderstand these stylized, public signs of friendship in Victorian photos and utterly misconstrue the relationships by viewing them through a modern subjective lens.
The Decker reproduction photo shows the friendship between a man and his servant and possibly a trusted slave. It represents a very rare type of interracial photo, north or south before or after the Civil War. The most common, but still rare photo is of a black nanny holding a white child for a photo, most of which date to just after the Civil War and are generally misconstrued. Photos are an important artifact of place and time, if viewed like an anthropologist, many clues can be unraveled not just about architecture, costume, and features, but also of social relationships. Pardon my long-winded explanations.
Oh, I forgot to mention that children were often tied in chairs to keep them from falling out or jumping around. It’s why so many of them have grumpy expressions. If you look, you will see their waists are covered to hide the rope. Also parents probably threatened them with a thrashing, so occasionally you will see a look of trepidation on their faces. The good old days.
WOW! you sure know your stuff and thank you. My own thoughts on the Victorians not smiling, especially the adults, I always assumed they had bad teeth to hide so they did not smile.
When photography was new and expensive, having your image taken was a serious undertaking. Since everybody might see your image, even people you don’t know, you put on a serious face to let people know you were not trivial, but a substantial and steady person. A smiling visage beaming out of a photograph at everybody was considered quite shallow and rather silly. Having bad teeth might also be a point to consider too.
It took until the 1880s for things to begin to relax and people to have everyday expressions such as a modest smile. Another thing you seldom see is a person wearing spectacles previous to this date. Glasses to see were nothing to be proud of in a portrait. Eventually once the Kodak camera came out, the snapshot changed the landscape of informal photography and it became more informal and in the case of the Kodak, candid. See http://inventors.about.com/od/estartinventors/ss/George_Eastman.htm for more information about the ground-breaking Kodak camera.
In 1877 Eastman decided to spend his summer vacation in Santo Domingo. A fellow employee at the bank suggested that he make a photographic record of his trip. Eastman bought the necessary photographic supplies, which included a large camera and tripod, glass plates, paper, boxes for storing the glass plate negatives, a tent that could serve as a darkroom, and assorted chemicals. He then paid $5 for lessons to learn to use the equipment he had purchased. Although he never made the trip to Santo Domingo, Eastman became interested in the simplification of the photographic process after he had mastered the complicated art of wet plate photography.
Fast forward to today. When I travel, I just pack my bags, grab a camera or use my cellphone to snap photos. It would have been cumbersome to pack all the photography equipment that Mr. Eastman had to bring just to photograph ones travels, not to mention all the extra luggage fees the airlines are charging now.
So I think I understand it now, thankyou Coast Con Fan. You mentioned it only briefly, but on rereading your post I found it by knowing what to look for. The mother (possibly nanny) is hidden to keep the child still, yes. I agree with Shahbanoo Pantea, why not just have the mother in the photo, but obviously these are single portraits.Today you can take 100 photos a second of a baby sitting still, but back then if you wanted a photo of just your kids it took too long to do, so you came up with alternative ways of keeping them still.
And I think holding a smiling pose is false today, a more serious facial structure shows more character. Course I have always thought Victorian folks were incapable of having fun going by their pictures!