Oct 25 2011: Eleven Victorian Studio Portraits of Children (English, 1880 – 1900)

A few weeks ago, I opened a cigar box at the Cattle Market and found inside 50 or 60 small Victorian studio portraits, mainly of women (presumably mementoes taken so that absent husbands and intendeds could carry the likenesses of their loves with them) alongside smaller numbers of images of children and men. While there’s little especially unusual about most of these (the portraits being of fairly standard types, where their subjects pose in gardens, or lean on tables and chairs) there’s something slightly haunting about them in bulk, as the figures and faces – all long dead – emerge from inside the box still in their youth, as strangers: the photographic plate (in the form of these small pasteboard cards) becomes a kind of mediumistic interface between one time and another. It’s hard not to try and project characters and narratives into these inscrutable images but, in the end, they give nothing away.

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