The Collective Picture

Vintage Photography Redefined

admin On April - 21 - 2009

So far in this blog I have paid tribute to a variety of subjects, using images to discuss history and society. These posts have used photographs as the jumping off point to look at the world, past and present. I would like to focus today on the process that makes this perception of our surroundings possible, photography itself. I have stumbled across several beautiful shots taken in the early days of photography, which highlight this budding art form. The portraits that have been posted here are just a small selection of the extensive archives that document the mid to late 1800’s. I have displayed here only female portraits from this era. In my view it only seems fitting to focus in on the female form for this consideration. For me the Victorian era has always been associated with the stanch moral fortitude that was said to be embodied in the females of this period. But as in any moment in history (and can be surely attested to in these images) much more diversity existed and is preserved in the photographic records.

The first permanent photograph was an image produced in 1825 by the French inventor Nicephore Niepce. In 1832 Hercules Florence came up with a similar idea and called it Photographie. By 1841 Janez Puhar had defined the process for making photographs on glass. From this emergence the popularity of photography grew, redefining art forms as it went. The industry ballooned in the mid to late 1800’s as demand for this process continued to grow. Photography moved away from glass plates, adopting dry techniques, which allowed for a quicker and easier process and eventually clearer images. In 1884 George Eastman developed dry gel on paper, or film. This development would lead to the box camera, which made this process more accessible to budding photographers. In July 1888 Eastman’s Kodak camera went on the market, offering individuals the ability to easily capture their surroundings. These advancements lead this technology down a significant path that would define its future impact. Pushing the boundaries of this technique, increasing accessibility for individuals and leading to the creation of the expansive archives that exist today. This history has allowed for the preservation of the women depicted here, capturing these faces in a specific moment and providing the records from which this time period is immortalized.

1850 Daguerreotype with applied color Victorian Beautiesportraits

ca. 1850.Unidentified Woman. daguerreotype with applied color Southworth & Hawes. George Eastman House Collection. Accession Number: 1974:0193:0672

1860. Burd Alane

1860.Burd Alane. Photographed by David Octavius Hill, Alexander McGlashan. Credit Presented by the Edinburgh Photographic Society 1987. National gallery.

After the death of Robert Adamson, Hill abandoned photography and returned to painting. However around 1860 he entered a partnership with the photographer, Alexander MacGlashan, which may have lasted no more than a few days. Hill persuaded MacGlashan to work in the Rock House garden on Calton Hill, where this picture was taken. Burd Alane means ‘only child’. Hill was particularly sensitive to this notion because he was a widower with an only daughter, Charlotte. She died giving birth to her only son in 1862.

1861 Photographic Study Hawarden Clementina Victorian Beautiesportraits

ca.1861-62. Photographic Study [Clementina Maude, 5 Princes Gardens] photographer Hawarden, Clementina (Viscountess) photographed in South Kensington, England.

This is one of Lady Hawarden’s finest and most characteristic photographs. Her daughter Clementina is shown seated in front of a mirror, gazing intently at her reflection. Beyond her in the mirror can be seen the balustrade of the balcony of the family house at 5 Princes Gardens, South Kensington, London. Beyond that, out of focus but still visible, are houses across Princes Gardens. Given Lady Clementina Tottenham, 1939© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1862 Clementina Maude Victorian Beautiesportraits

ca. 1862-1863. Clementina Maude, arms raised, 5 Princes Gardens

Photographic Study. Photographer Hawarden, Clementina (Viscountess) © Victoria and Albert Museum, London. This dramatic photograph has other parallels in Lady Hawarden’s work. When exhibiting her photographs she described them simply as ‘Photographic Studies’ or ‘Studies from Life’. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

1864 Kate Dore Victorian Beautiesportraits

Ca.1864. “Kate Dore with frame of plant forms.” Techniques: Albumen print; the ferns added by the photogram technique. Photographers Cameron, Julia Margaret and Rejlander, Oscar Gustav. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This print is a photogram, a technique of making a picture without a camera or lens. Photograms are made by placing objects on top of a piece of photographic paper and then exposing the composition to light. In this example, ferns were placed in contact with the glass negative prior to printing-out in sunlight.

1864 Study from life Hawarden Clementina Victorian Beautiesportraits

1864. “Study from Life” Photographer Hawarden, Clementina (Viscountess) Technique Albumen print from wet collodion-on-glass negative. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The photographer Lady Hawarden was the first woman photographer to gain critical recognition, receiving awards and enthusiastic reviews at the Photographic Society of London’s annual exhibitions

1870 8 photos of woman one negative Victorian Beautiesportraits

1870. “Eight photographic likeness of a lady, indifferent atittudes, all taken on one negative (one glass) and at one operation.” Photographer: Mclellan, R.R. Library and Archives Canada.1890 Kodak Gallery Collection Victorian Beautiesportraitsca. 1890. Woman reading. National Media Museum – Kodak Gallery Collection

1898 Woman wearing opera cape Victorian Beautiesportraits

1898. Woman wearing an opera cape, Powerhouse Museum Collection

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Categories: portraits, women

2 Responses

  1. If only more than 20 people could hear about this..

  2. Eloy Franco says:

    Incredibly great article. Honest..

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