Mar 4 2012: Group Portrait by J.F.M Photographic, King Street, Nottingham (1970s)

When I was younger, the idea that the past happened in monochrome – whether the greys of black and white film and photography, the sepia of Victorian street scenes and portraits, or the blues, greens and reddish tints that dominated silent film footage – was hard to shake. Somehow, the Second World War looked wrong when the occasional colour image appeared, and the First would have been barely conceivable in anything but flickering, grainy shades of murky black and grey. In some respects, the photograph above suggests its later sixties or early seventies grouping also existed inside the contraints of a unique colour fingerprint, here the kind of oranges and ochres suggestive of that era’s interiors and fashions. As the blues and yellows fade from the print – here held inside its own textured beige card frame, stamped with the business of the photographic studio responsible for its creation, J.F.M. Photographic, based at 19A King Street, Nottingham – these two couples, presumably a daughter or son in law out for the night on a dinner dance with one or another of their sets of parents, are held in a kind of nostalgic amber. Within this, the mirroring between the male and female figures is fascinating, generating its own balance and sense of suspension as the two men wear echoes of each other’s three piece suits, and the women sport maxi-dresses with complementary checked patterns. The idea of youth as a variation on the older generation’s style, rather than outright affront to it, is here shown to have survived much longer than is generally assumed: these days, formal occasions aside, it seems far more likely that the older parties would be dressing young rather than the reverse of that tendency we see here.


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