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Victorians in Camera (Paperback)

The World of 19th Century Studio Photography

P&S History > British History > Victorian History

By Robert Pols
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 182
ISBN: 9781473823341
Published: 21st September 2015



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'The making of a lifelike picture was something to be wondered at.
It was an adventure, it was an expense, and it was often something of an ordeal...'

Victorians in Camera explores the world of nineteenth century photography from the subjects' point of view. What did people want from their portraits? Where did they go to have them made and did the Victorians really never smile? What did they do with the finished product, whether a formal daguerreotype or cheery snapshot?

From a wealth of contemporary evidence – in both words and pictures – Robert Pols reveals the story behind Victorian photography – from trickery to photographic fashions. Discover the social history behind nineteenth century photographs and how to trace hidden stories within your own family album.

For collectors of Victorian photographs, this book makes an interesting read. Family historians with collections of images will gain from understanding the processes and reasoning behind the production of photographs.

A very enjoyable and informative read.

Federation of Family History Societies

This book explores how the Victorians felt about their portraits, exploring what their photographs represented to them, who took them, and where they were displayed. In other words Robert Pols explores the social history behind the photos. He is an expert on old photographs, so his writing is first class. For example, his exploration is why people so seldom smile in Victorian photographs is priceless.

So, to conclude, a well-written and beautifully presented and illustrated book. Kudos to both the author and Pen & Sword.

Destructive Music - Steve Earles

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Lynn News

Being a local and family historian for many years I have naturally come across hundreds of Victorian and Edwardian hard-backed photographs, all bearing, in suitably flowery script, the photographers name and studio address. Alas, all too often, the people depicted in the photographs are unknown. Their image survives but not their name, these were show piece items, the ‘iphones’ of their day and they were not to be vandalised by being written on – besides – everyone knew the person in the portrait so why would it be necessary. A sad truth for these surviving relics. There are many books which endeavour to help the historian date these photographs but until now, none which seek to explore the whole experience of our forebears in what it was like to have their photograph taken.

The author begins by relating the need of the customer, portraits had been for the wealthy but now, it was possible to have a real image to put on the mantelpiece. Photographs were initially taken using similar poses to those used in painted portraits but they gradually became more inventive. He also tackles the subject of smiling, or, the lack of it, in Victorian times! Were people following the lead of Queen Victoria? Was it easier to keep a straight face than to smile for several minutes or was it the state of their teeth? You’ll have to read the book for yourself if you want to find out – and I’d recommend that you do.

The timing of a visit to a studio, deciding which studio to go to, the experience of sitting, setting, backdrop and pose along with the customer experience of receiving the photograph and in some cases being highly unsatisfied are covered with great attention to detail.

This book is a joy to read, written by a knowledgeable writer and it paints a highly evocative picture of an important part of our forebear’s lives. Whilst today we take thousands of digital images and think nothing of it, for the Victorian’s it was a momentous if not daunting adventure, this book lucidly brings the experience back to life.

Chris Heath - Author
 Robert Pols

About Robert Pols

Robert Pols is an expert in old photographs. He has published a number of books on photographic history and research guides on the topic. For many years Family History Monthly magazine's resident 'Photo Detective', Robert runs the website Early Photographic Studios (www.early-photographers.org.uk) and has contributed to a range of radio programmes covering aspects of family history.

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