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Posts Tagged ‘Studio Portraits’

These early cricket-related photographs show two brothers, David and John Drummond, the sons of the wealthy businessman and philanthropist David Drummond. The portraits were taken in the mid-1860s when the photographic trade was thriving and the Lauder Brothers ran studios on both Sackville Street and Westmoreland Street. I love the elaborate backdrop with the stairs stretching into the distance. The backs of the cartes give different addresses although it is obvious that both photographs were taken in the same studio and at the same time.

I have been able to trace what happened to little David who became a renowned physician in England. He was born in 1852 and his obituary even mentions his love of cricket! I am not too sure what became of John. Their Rathgar home was called Dunfillan House and the conservatory, commissioned by their father, was recently renovated with assistance from the Irish Georgian society.

Both boys are wearing quite fancy outfits which may or may not be part of their school or cricket uniforms – they attended Rathmines School. I was able to locate a newspaper report on a cricket match which took place in Bray the 1st of October 1867 and in which David played a major part: “Rathmines School C.C. brought its season to a close on Saturday last by winning two signal victories… At Bray the Second Eleven encountered Bray College C.C., and won by 131 runs, Mr. David Drummond scoring 40 … Mr Drummond’s bowling excited general admiration.”

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The chill in the air reminded me of this beautiful carte-de-visite showing a Dublin girl in her lavish winter outfit. The expression on her wise little face, peaking out from the large bonnet, makes me think that she might have been a tad precocious and spoilt!

The matching coat, muff and gaiters are made from a material which looks like the fake or fun furs which were popular during my childhood in the 1970s. In my attempt to identify the fabric, I received several suggestions as to what this material might be including an Astrakhan fur, a reversed shearling or a bouclè wool. In general, I find Noreen Marshall’s Dictionary of Children’s Clothes 1700s to Present to be very useful and the excellent photographs in this V&A publication make it a vital resource for the historian of children’s costume.

Lauder Brothers worked from 32 Westmoreland Street from the 1850s to 1900 although I think that this image dates from the later decades of their tenure at this premises. Edward Chandler included several of their card backs in his invaluable book Photography in Ireland: the Nineteenth Century and the example above matches those from the 1890s. I located a similar, although possibly later image, from a Romanian studio on an interesting blog called The Cabinet Card Gallery.

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This cabinet card shows a charming group photograph of the five Walshe children from Battlemount, Narragmore, Ballytore, County Kildare. The Lafayette studio’s rustic setting includes wooden steps and tufts of artificial grass and is completed by props such as a fishing net, basket, book and what has to be a stuffed dog!

The children are beautifully dressed as befits the family of a comfortable farmer from this prosperous county. The two girls to the front of the photograph wear velvet ruched dresses with beautiful smocking and buttons. The also wear fashionable lace-up boots. Both of the boys are dressed in matching suits with wide stripes and white collars. The elder girl wears a nautical dress and short hair which is perhaps an indication of a recent illness.

The village of Ballytore or Ballitore was the only planned Quaker village in Ireland and home to the ancestors of the explorer Ernest Shackleton. The census returns for 1901 and 1911 state that there were five children in the Walshe family and that their mother, Bridget, who was married in 1873 was widowed by 1901. It is likely that this photograph was taken in the mid-1880s when the youngest child, Michael (b.1881) was about five year’s old. 

 

 

 

The above photograph of the family home, Battlemount House was taken many years later and shows the now grown children with their mother. As in the earlier photograph, two of the daughters appear to be wearing identical outfits. Perhaps they were twins? I discovered that one of the daughters, Bridget, was to emigrate to South Africa, and this image might mark one of the last times that the family were to be together.

A newspaper report from August1922 shows that Michael was seeking compensation of £235, from the government, for the loss of his Ford car during the Civil War – an indicator that the family continued to be quite well-off!

 

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When I first started researching this oddly named studio, I thought that the American Ping Pong Studios were in some way related to the 1920s craze for table tennis! Upon further investigation, I discovered that a Ping Pong Studio was a type of basic photographic studio, usually located at a tourist attraction, which offered inexpensive and quickly produced portraits. A 1909 book by J. B. Schriever entitled ‘Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photograph’ outlines how to set one up. Other references refer to a business model which charged more for fancy borders and frames than for the actual photographs. 

The portrait itself is strong and I love her confident gaze at the camera. The beehive shaped toggles on her hat and the luxurious fur wrap are nice touches too.

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Sometimes regional studios throw up very unusual images, as these photographs from Galway and Limerick demonstrate. Although they display the usual studio props and formats, the sitters’ attire and demeanour make for atypical images.

The grandfather and grand-daughter taken by Walter Hopkins, 6 Eglinton Street, Galway, present a compelling image. The old man is definitely not used to having his photograph taken and one feels that this was probably his first time in a photographic studio. His rough homespun suit and stance are from an older Ireland. Perhaps he is from the islands or a worker on the docks? This man was probably born before the Famine and grew up in a very different world to the one in which the young girl will live.

I haven’t been able to find out much about Hopkins and he appears to have practised in the last few decades of the 19th century. He is credited with taking a portrait of the writer, Pádraic Ó Conaire, in the 1890s. I reckon that the photograph above pre-dates this as its logo and card are more crudely executed than on the Ó Conaire picture.

The Limerick carte-de-visite, shows a mother and her four daughters in their finery. The matching hats, skirts and fringed shawls are quite over the top. Their faces look gaunt and drawn and you can definitely see the family similarity. I also love any sort of cheesy studio prop and this fake garden arch is great if somewhat obscured by the five women who are crammed into the photograph. I reckon that the tilted forward hats date the photograph to the early 1870s.

Limerick-born Thomas Bernard ran his photographic studio for at least five decades from the 1870s to the 1910s, after which, I cannot find any record of him. Even though he had ten children it appears that none of them wanted to become photographers!

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These two groups of sisters are beautifully presented with matching dresses and hairstyles. The girls above were photographed by Robert Lyttle of  Belfast, and have fabulous banana curls tied with large ribbons. Their light coloured linen or cotton dresses are worn with dark tights and lace-up boots or shoes. I particularly like the detailed smocking and the series of pin tucks at the bottom of their skirts. Interestingly, they all wore necklaces and bracelets.

The second group were photographed at William McCrae’s Studio, Berkeley Road, Phibsborough, Dublin. They too wear matching white outfits with the dark tights and shoes so typical of the era. Their dresses have nautical details which are similar to a 1905 girl’s sailor suit held in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. 

Unfortunately, I have no idea who the girls in either photographs were, however, based on the skirt lengths and the studio addresses it is probable that the photographs were taken in the first decade of the twentieth century.

Census records show that in 1911, Belfast-born Robert Lyttle was living at 23 Kingsmere Avenue with his wife Eleanor and three children (Gwen, Norman and Cecil). He doesn’t feature as a photographer in the 1901 census. Curiously, the verso of the photograph lists him as the Official Photographer of the Football Association of Ireland!

William McCrae was of Scottish origin and in 1911 lived over his Berkeley Street studio with his six surviving children. By this time, his Irish-born wife, Rebecca, had died. Since their marriage in 1887, she had given birth to at least nine children! The family are listed as members of the United Free Church of Scotland, a Presbyterian group who were in existence from 1900.

By 1916, McCrae had also opened a studio at the fashionable location of Grafton Street. The business was continued by his sons, one of whom may have been the photographer commissioned to record the aftermath of the North Strand bombings in 1941. 

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I am giving a talk in August on the subject of Irish fashion during World War Two and in preparation I had a look at some of my photos from the 1940s. As these two Dublin wedding portraits demonstrate, the slouch hat was a ‘must-have’ for any fashionable women. Tilted or asymmetric hats of all styles were very popular including the topper .  

 

The July 1944 advertisement boasts that the high-end Dublin department store Slyne’s was selling slouch hats in a variety of colours. 

 

Neither bride wears white and both of them have sensible shoes and outfits which could be worn again for everyday use. 

Interestingly, both grooms are wearing double-breasted pin-striped suits with large lapels. The trousers are wide-legged with turn-ups. 

What I like about both these studio portraits is that they show how regular Dubliners embraced fashion trends and that despite the formal studio setting and poses, the sitters’ personalities still manage to shine through. 

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