This week we were set a collaboration task, which proved to be logistically more difficult than I imagined it would. The topic for the work was completely up to us.
After finding a family portrait postcard photo, with the only words written on the back ‘Xmas 1917’, I made the decision to look at family portraiture through the following decades, with the ambition of arriving at the present date – 100 years seemed like a good idea, but it turned out to be a bit of a mammoth task!
Unfortunately, work loads meant that my partner in crime and I weren’t able to talk properly until the night before our webinar. So after discussing the initial idea (the postcard) we pretty much went about it alone until then.
I asked friends on Facebook if they had any suitable photos I could use – I gathered two this way, a few from mine and my husband’s family archives, and obtained the rest via the Google search engine. This in itself presented problems as I had no way of knowing whether searching for British family portraits would also yield portraiture from other countries. There were many very early photos to choose from. There were less from the 1930s onwards; and the later the decade, the more difficult it became to find official family portraits.
Settling on six photographs, and after having read Paul Martin Lester’s Visual Analysis, I set about analysing them – although had I done so according to all of his six stages this would have taken considerably more time.
A quick chat the night before with my collaborator, and all was set to present my work the following morning at our webinar session. I had some interesting feedback. One of the group gave me some background historical information about the location of the studio where one of the portraits was taken (Bow in the 1960s). My tutor also introduced me to a couple of search engines that I’d not heard of before, where the search results will be less biased towards the UK. Apparently imageatlas.org/ is a collaboration between a photographer and a programmer.
It was interesting seeing the other team’s collaborative project, which was based on a couple of triptych slides of bridges. The discussions which followed were largely focused around locations, different ways of presenting work, themes, output.
I’ve realised that I should start planning not only what my Research Project will be, but how I am going to make it accessible / present it.
I tried hard not to ‘make anything’ this week, but by Thursday I couldn’t wait any longer! The photo montage at the top of the page is some of the mothers and children photographs I sourced – one from every decade between 1910- 1960. Having said that, the relationship between the subjects was another assumption that I had to make.
The chosen photos with their basic analysis’ are below.
Anonymous postcard. Father and son look slightly off camera, whilst mother gazes at it.
The mother and son sit together on a stool or table, whilst the father sits in a chair with arms. There is a large plant in the background. Males are wearing ties. Mother has watch and wedding ring visible. Boy is holding a book. Taken indoors, with indoor clothing.
The left side of the photograph is lighter than the right. Props make it look like it was taken at home although it was probably a studio.
Kirkland family. Approx 1917-19
Father sitting on something with a cushion on. Mother and child standing. Boy’s left hand rests on father’s lap, mother’s left arm is behind the boy. Taken indoors, wearing outdoor clothing. The mother’s skirt has a visible hem, which suggests it has been hand made, or altered. All wearing hats. Father and boy look slightly off camera, mother gazes at it.
Buttons for decoration used on clothing. The pose, although formal, also has a relaxed air to it. The left side of the photograph is lighter than the right.
Abbey family. Around 1917
Mother, father and two daughters.
Parents both sitting down, one girl is standing on the floor, the other on whatever the parents are sitting on, with the mother holding her hand. The father has his right arm around the back of the girl standing on the floor. He is wearing a soldier’s uniform. The girls have identical bows in their hair, left side. One girl has a pinafore dress on with a blouse underneath, the other has a skirt and blouse on, as is the mother, with a brooch at her neck. Photo taken indoors, with a window with half net curtains visible behind. The only one looking directly at the camera is the smallest girl.
They all appear to be subdued, with the exception of the girl who is standing up, who looks a little more at ease. Ironic, as the setting looks the least formal of the three photos presented here during this period.
Williamson” – EastMarple1 Flickr. 1920s
Mother is sitting on a pouffe, legs crossed at the feet. Child on her knee, left arm outreached as if she is reaching for necklace. Mother is wearing hat, jacket with a flower on the right lapel. Child has a frilly dress on with short sleeves. Mother has right arm around the back of the child, her left arm is just brushing the child’s right foot. She is wearing a ring on her little finger. There is no other furniture or props. Studio setting.
Late 1930s.Courtesy of S. Moriarty.
Grandmother and child, plus one unknown woman in the background.
This was taken in b&w and painted in afterwards. Both standing at the bottom of steps, with rockery plants either side, steps behind leading to an arch through a hedge. Symmetrical garden. Both wearing hats. The grandmother is wearing a mid-calf length dress with a jacket on the top. The girl is wearing a short sleeved, above the knee dress. Her hat has a rim with flowers round it. The girl is looking slightly downwards as she is stepping downwards, the grandmother looks stationery as she looks slightly to her right. She is wearing spectacles.
Google search. 1930s.
Mother and father with a child in between each of them. Mother has a dress to her ankles, short sleeves with decorative buttons. In her left hand is a large handbag, and under her arm is what appears to be a beach mat or similar. Her right hand is holding the hand of the smallest boy.
The father is wearing casual trousers, jacket and polo shirt underneath, with the collar turned slightly up. In his left hand is a bucket and spade, and a newspaper is tucked under his arm. His right hand hangs loosely by his side.
The small boy is wearing a sun visor, and is carrying a bag with the words “surprise gift” written on. The older boy is carrying a paper bag and what could be a comic. They are both wearing shorts, shirt and knitted sleeveless jumpers. They are strolling along what appears to be a prom – there are deckchairs to their right. The visor and short sleeved dress suggests that it was probably summer, however there are more people in the background who are wearing three / quarter, or long sleeves.
They were probably on a seaside holiday, and had their photograph taken by a prom photographer, which was popular at that time.
Google search 1940s
Stecker family 1944
Head and upper body shot of parents on either side of the picture, with two boys in the middle. There is more of an age gap between the boys. One is standing, with a suit and tie on, the other is sitting on father’s knee, wearing a romper or similar. The mother and older boy are turned slightly inwards. The father is wearing a suit and patterned tie. The mother has a smart jacket and blouse on, and is wearing lipstick. They are all smiling, with their mouths open. There is no visible furniture or props, and the edge of the portrait is blurred, which emphasised the family shot. Studio setting.
Williams family, late 1950s.
Parents are sitting on each side of the photograph, with four children in between. One boy is standing at the back, the other is kneeling on whatever the others are sitting on. The only girl sits next to her father, with her hands clasped in front of her. Her right shoulder is slightly in front of her father. The smallest child is sitting on his mother’s knee, who is turned slightly inwards, as is the father on the opposite side. The mother has on a skirt, blouse, and necklace. She is holding the boy, although her right arm is not visible. The father is wearing a three piece suit and tie. The oldest boy (who is kneeling) also has on a smart jacket and tie. The boy standing at the back has on a shirt, tie and knitted short-sleeve pullover. The oldest boy has his mouth open in a smile, everyone else has mouths closed, but in a subtle smile. There is no visible furniture or props, other than what they are sitting on. The right side of the photo is lighter than the left.
Google search, 1960s.
Mother, father and young girl. The mother is sitting down on a cane chair, with her left foot lightly in front of the right. Both hand are in her lap, her left one is holding her daughter’s hand, who is standing on the floor, to her right. The father is standing behind the girl, slightly turned inwards. His right hand rests on his daughter’s shoulder, and his left is outstretched onto his wife’s right shoulder. He is wearing a suit and tie, and has ring on the third finger of his right hand. The mother is wearing a wide-striped sleeveless dress which in the photo sits just above her knee. She has on a wedding ring. The child has a short dress with a frilly collar. Although this is shot indoors, behind the chair there is something which looks like trellis, and there is a large shadow of the same pattern behind the family. It looks as if light is shining through the trellis on the right to create the shadow. These frame the portrait. There is light to the right of the family, as the left side of the father’s face is in shadow. The mother is looking slightly downwards, the other two are looking slightly to their right. They are all smiling, with open mouths.