Carte de visite
This carte de visite portrait is typical of hundreds of thousands produced at the turn of the Nineteenth Century. It makes a real contrast to the informal street photographs which feature on this site and became popular two decades or so later. The three lads, who could be brothers, they look very alike, are fairly formally dressed but the straw hats give the game away; they’re on holiday in Blackpool. At least I assume so, but as it was taken in the studios of Cooper and Sons, who had addresses in Manchester (at Upper Jackson Street in fact, close to where I spent my student days) and Blackpool, it’s just possible the set up was made to mimic the seaside. The painted canvas backdrop depicts a seaside bay (which was my interest in the image), and while the cheap chairs and tatty flooring suggest perhaps not the swankiest of operations, the portrait is very good quality. The card itself is so decorative, with embossed gold details on the front and an elaborate engraved scene on the reverse, with sort of vaguely greek fashion overtones mixed in with the Victorian imagery and the strange butterfly winged naked boy photographer.
We do not know who the lads are, and probably never will. Thousands of these cards circulate today, torn out of large photo albums by dealers who should know better, and so losing any context they might have had.