Most photographs of Victorian people tend to show them as stiff, formal and unsmiling. For most families a photograph was a rare event which involved dressing up in Sunday best and making a trip out to the photographer’s studio. The poses they adopted still derived from the conventions of portrait painting, and long exposure times meant that natural, convincing smiles were difficult to sustain. While they may have wished to give posterity the impression that they were serious and solemn people, they were probably not so grim and humourless in everyday life.
Dawn Parsonage-Kent found evidence of this when she discovered over 200 glass negatives in an antiques shop in Perthshire, Scotland. The images, dating from around 1880-1900, were taken by one photographer of his family and friends in a variety of unusually relaxed, smiling, and sometimes silly poses (hence why some of the subjects are a little blurred).
Dawn told the Ross-shire Journal: “There are 200 all taken by the same photographer of his friends and family and the area, I imagine, surrounding where he lived. He looks to be a good amateur, a wealthy farmer with a large farm and his own darkroom and studio. You can even see him building the darkroom in the images. Although I knew they were from Scotland I couldn’t pinpoint the exact location. Then one of my contacts on Flickr identified Castle Leod. Some locations look rather similar to Ross-shire too. It would be wonderful to discover if anyone recognizes any of the streets, views or, most exciting, the people in these photographs.”
Dawn has posted the full set of images on Flickr and can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help identify any of the people or places shown.