Written on the back of this print is "League of Nations Building Geneva". The building still exists but is now known as the Palais des Nations and serves as the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva. For whatever reason, modern photographs make it look much grander than in this lost and unknown snap which must have been taken sometime in the 1930s.
When I scanned this old and faded photograph of people I don't know in places I've not been, I seem to have got the settings mixed up. The result was a strange image which looks like something produced by forcing raspberry jam through a lino cut. There is something I quite like about the picture.
The real delight of messing around with old photographs is that process of discovery which enables you to rediscover a fine image that has been lost for generations. This is a scan of a tiny old over-exposed print which was so dark it was almost impossible to recognise the subject as being a man in a car. Scanning and cleaning reveals a perfectly wonderful photograph of a man in a car. The look on the face of the man is a picture in itself. Silly as it sounds, I feel like Howard Carter reopening the tomb of Tutankamun.
This is not my step father. The chances are that he is nobody's step father. Statistical probability would suggest, however, that he is someone's father. And he is standing on the steps. Other than that I know little as to the where and when, but a pencilled notation on the reverse of the print suggest that his name might have been Willie Adair.
With a few notable exceptions, the world of Victorian photography was predominantly a male preserve; but here we have a photography studio in Hyde, Cheshire operating under the name of a woman. In fact it is a woman operating under the name of her husband (Mr Samuel Radcliffe) and I have a sneaking feeling that she might be the widow of Samuel. I can find very little about Mrs Radcliffe, but I did discover that another woman photographer - Mrs Wade - was operating out of the same studio at about the same time.
In order to understand the history of British studio photography in the latter half of the nineteenth century you need to understand the pace of technological, social and economic change that worked its way through the country during the long reign of Queen Victoria. During her years on the throne, photography changed from being an expensive scientific experiment and plaything of the rich to a mass market business available to all.
But photography remained the province of the commercial studio specialist - cheap cameras available to ordinary citizens were a thing of the twentieth century. These then were the decades when the studios were the means by which, first the middle classes and later the working classes, could have their images fixed for posterity - a luxury that had previously only been available to the rich who could afford access to a portrait painter. The studio industry went through an intense period of growth, with studio springing up in every city and town - and later on, in every village - in the country.
It was an industry ideally suited to the enterprising young, who would often move around the country establishing studios in town after town. And by the last couple of decades of the century a number of super studio chains were being put together; often characterised by clever marketing on the reverse of their Cabinet Cards and Carte de Visites. The firm founded by Andrew and George Taylor in London in the 1860s was but one of the several who claimed to be the "largest in the world" and "photographers to the queen"
There was obviously a pride to be obtained by having your portrait taken by the people who photographed Queen Victoria - not to mention the Prince and Princess of Wales. The fact that the picture was being taken in industrial Sheffield by an employee who had probably never met Andrew and George Taylor, never mind Her Imperial Majesty, was not important. It was a portrait you could proudly display on your parlour sideboard.
1707-133 : TWO THEATRICALS Two more smilers, but this time I suspect there are differences. First of all we have, I think, two women ...
1707-130 : VICTORIAN COUPLE WITH SMILES This Victorian couple are both smiling, which is rare for photographs of this age. It wasn...
This small Victorian portrait card measures just 2.5 by 1.5 inches and was of a size known, appropriately enough, as a midget . Such car...