Friday, January 30, 2004

as you do

Male members of Mitford Church Choir outing to Cranston, Edinburghshire, engaged in a recreational activity involving tennis racquets and a flagpole

One of a "selection of photographs taken by Canon McLeod, Vicar of Mitford" in the Collections at Tomorrow's History "the majority of the images are naturalistic - showing local people at work and at leisure. "
Some of the unposed images are quite striking for their informality - this slide of a group of women, for instance, makes the viewer seem eavesdropper, or guest on the edge of the circle.
Likewise Mothers and daughters dancing or playing is quite remarkable for its lack of Victorian photographic stiffness. Rare animated smiles.

See also: The Macleod's play cricket
Men crossing River Wansbeck via stepping stones

Comments: as you do

Never could understand those traditional English spring fertility rites.
Posted by Gummo Trotsky at January 30, 2004 05:57 PM

It's rare to see such candid photos from this era. I've often wondered about that Victorian stiffness -- was it because the equipment required long exposures to get a really good quality photo (these all seem a bit washed out)? Or was it because the Victorians generally considered having their picture taken equivalent to having their portrait painted? Both, maybe.
Posted by MG at January 31, 2004 02:16 AM

Gummo - think we've just about got the good wood on reading the obvious symbolism here, but still having some difficulty determining the semiotics of tennis racquet.

Yes I'd say both, MG
In this case, apparently:
"The invention of the dry plate in the latter part of the nineteenth century meant that photography no longer had to be posed" was responsible for the unusual naturalness.
I love seeing photos which challenge (my) expectations of the Victorian sensibility - stoic,
solemn, sombre. It would be an intersesting thing to research no doubt.
Posted by boynton at January 31, 2004 02:02 PM

But then, even after the Box Brownie, generations of family photos show us all lined up by the family car, or next to the hills hoist, or paused in the middle of crenellating our sandcastles on the beach. "Line up and get your picture taken.. come on Beryl, leave that tin of beetroot, Harry's got his camera.."
My own father, a good enough marksman to be a team member in Serious National Comps, always twitched as he pressed the shutter so we never had any heads in our childhood snaps..
it's how we confronted the family album. A kind of formality. God knows why, really..
Posted by David Tiley at January 31, 2004 05:52 PM

Not only being posed - the lack of colour adds to the sombreness - hard to believe people had fun back then, when the world was B&W.

We've got some wonderful 'posed' home movies taken in the sixties - with my nan (so young! so alive!) standing still for the camera & smiling - only her eyes flicker every now & then...
Posted by wen at February 2, 2004 02:17 PM

mysterious how a camera imposes a formality upon the informal
how the loose family stiffens
how faces are subject to the violence of composition
badly shot heads decapitated...
Posted by boynton at February 3, 2004 12:47 PM

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