British photographic history

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I wonder how sitters chose the portrait that they liked best from the two or three made in a typical sitting. Is it correct to assume that sitters did make a choice? If so, did they wait in the studio while the negative was developed and fixed, and for a proof to be printed out? Any thoughts gratefully received. Mark Haworth-Booth

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Part of the skill of the photgrapher was be confident that he had secured an acceptable likeness but most would take more than one to give the sitter a choice. In the case of Elliott and Fry they would take between 2 and 15 images from which the sitter would choose the one that s/he wished to have made in to a carte or cabinet card. I suspect other photographers operated in a similar way. Where the sitter found none of the images acceptable they a free re-sit was usually offered. Sitters would usually return a few days or a week later. I am not aware that any photographers offered a while-you-wait service to view the proofs. H. Baden Pritchard's The Photographic Studios of Europe (London: Piper & Carter, 1882) goes into the modus operandi of a range of studios. The book, as you know, was based on Baden Pritchard's series of descriptions in the Photographic News.
Thank you very much. I must take a longer look at Baden Pritchard, a distinguished name in photography! All best, Mark

Michael Pritchard said:
Part of the skill of the photgrapher was be confident that he had secured an acceptable likeness but most would take more than one to give the sitter a choice. In the case of Elliott and Fry they would take between 2 and 15 images from which the sitter would choose the one that s/he wished to have made in to a carte or cabinet card. I suspect other photographers operated in a similar way. Where the sitter found none of the images acceptable they a free re-sit was usually offered. Sitters would usually return a few days or a week later. I am not aware that any photographers offered a while-you-wait service to view the proofs. H. Baden Pritchard's The Photographic Studios of Europe (London: Piper & Carter, 1882) goes into the modus operandi of a range of studios. The book, as you know, was based on Baden Pritchard's series of descriptions in the Photographic News.
Mark, the cameras often used had four lenses so there was on option to take 4 - 8 images per plate depending on plate size. Also depending on which lenses were used these could be all different or up to 4 of the same. Single lens cameras used a movable plate holder. The negatives were contact printed and rarely enlarged. Uncut proof sheets have survived for quite a number of photographers including Disderi but am I right in saying for Silvy as well? Sitters usually returned after some days to see their prints. The only time I am aware that photos were offered "on the spot" is with tintypes. Gem tintypes usually in multiple and sometimes in carte de visite mounts were offered this way. I understand most photographers simply proceeded with an order rather than give the sitter a choice of poses but if they did they would have offered unmounted images to choose. Celebrity sitters whose images were to be mass produced often had multiple poses taken and then the best selected. Occasionally proof copies were mounted and somehow marked that they were proofs however I only have around 15 of these with well over 15000 cdvs in my collection. Contemporary newspaper ads reveal cdv photos were usually offered to the customer in lots of six or a dozen. Cheers! Marcel
Thank you very much, Marcel. Yes, there are many surviving uncut cartes de visite by Silvy (eg in the V&A collection) and a very few are marked with a cross to suggest that they were selected for printing, trimming and mounting. I have not come across any contemporary accounts of the procedure of returning to the studio to choose, but that must be what happened. Thank you again and all the best, Mark

Marcel Safier said:
Mark, the cameras often used had four lenses so there was on option to take 4 - 8 images per plate depending on plate size. Also depending on which lenses were used these could be all different or up to 4 of the same. Single lens cameras used a movable plate holder. The negatives were contact printed and rarely enlarged. Uncut proof sheets have survived for quite a number of photographers including Disderi but am I right in saying for Silvy as well? Sitters usually returned after some days to see their prints. The only time I am aware that photos were offered "on the spot" is with tintypes. Gem tintypes usually in multiple and sometimes in carte de visite mounts were offered this way. I understand most photographers simply proceeded with an order rather than give the sitter a choice of poses but if they did they would have offered unmounted images to choose. Celebrity sitters whose images were to be mass produced often had multiple poses taken and then the best selected. Occasionally proof copies were mounted and somehow marked that they were proofs however I only have around 15 of these with well over 15000 cdvs in my collection. Contemporary newspaper ads reveal cdv photos were usually offered to the customer in lots of six or a dozen. Cheers! Marcel
Dear Mark, I do not know whether the Britishness of this blog allows foreign thoughts on these subjects but it seems that your question traces a sort of crafty canon established long before photography: According to the social role of the photographer's client he/she/they had to return to the studio a few hours later or the next day for choosing from proof prints (as was done mutatis mutandis in medieval or later workshops when ordering a weapon, a dress, or a painting) or somebody from the studio was sent home to the client presenting the proofs there. You can find some hints of this practice in Dauthendey's history of his father as a photographer in St.Petersburg. Having known some of the young clients on August Sander photographs of the 1910s and 1920s I was told that Sander took the photographs of his peasant clients on one sunday and returned the next with proofs to be ready for returning another sunday for delivering the results - each time being payed in rural products. As a son of a craft photographer I recall memories of a pre-puberty myself delivering proofs and orders to Bonn politicians and nobles in the 1950s and early 1960s as well as seeing clients return to the studio the next day fot the final choice of portraits.
Dear Rolf

Great to hear from you! I don't know the text you cite by Dauthendey but it sounds very relevant. Your ideas about the practice of consultation with the client are very apposite. Thank you so much.

All the best, Mark

Rolf Sachsse said:
Dear Mark, I do not know whether the Britishness of this blog allows foreign thoughts on these subjects but it seems that your question traces a sort of crafty canon established long before photography: According to the social role of the photographer's client he/she/they had to return to the studio a few hours later or the next day for choosing from proof prints (as was done mutatis mutandis in medieval or later workshops when ordering a weapon, a dress, or a painting) or somebody from the studio was sent home to the client presenting the proofs there. You can find some hints of this practice in Dauthendey's history of his father as a photographer in St.Petersburg. Having known some of the young clients on August Sander photographs of the 1910s and 1920s I was told that Sander took the photographs of his peasant clients on one sunday and returned the next with proofs to be ready for returning another sunday for delivering the results - each time being payed in rural products. As a son of a craft photographer I recall memories of a pre-puberty myself delivering proofs and orders to Bonn politicians and nobles in the 1950s and early 1960s as well as seeing clients return to the studio the next day fot the final choice of portraits.

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