British photographic history

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Hello, I have come across a hand coloured CDV in our museum collection (Te Papa, Wellington, New Zealand) which has a handwritten credit on the verso. I think it reads: 'Mrs Browning / Photographist / & Colourist / 14 Pollock Street / Glasgow'.

Does anyone know anything about her?

Best wishes, Lissa

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Hi, Lissa

I've managed to do quite a bit of checking on the information you put up yesterday.  I can't find any reference in a trade directory to Theresa being at the South Hanover Street address, but she may have been working out of there as it's shown here as the premises of a CdV photographer https://footlightnotes.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/ch-bartell-active-l....

I've also checked the names of the other CdV people - the one in St Andrews is fairly eminent and the university there has a lot of their work in their collection; the Glasgow ones were all practicing around the same time and most of them advertised in the Glasgow Herald (equivalent of the Press in Christchurch, long-standing, everyone read it). I was interested to see that one was also a portrait painter and wondered if that was a connection. The Main Street one is American (Buffalo NY) and the Irish ones are a puzzle, but Theresa's husband left Glasgow quite soon after they were married and went to Ireland. There's some strange things in her life which I've added to public record information in an Ancestry family tree, which you might enjoy reading through - it would show you the various addresses, which might let you identify the timing of the photographs. Rose and I have made contact by e-mail now and I can 'invite' you to Theresa's family tree. There are several Paisley Road addresses for her, as it's a huge long road, with terraces and blocks in it which have separate names. I wondered what the subject of the CdVs are (e.g. of other women, suggesting that the subjects might have been assessing different photographer's work, then deciding to use Theresa) - but either way it's disproportionately Scottish but possibily a collection made at the time, rather than later? I also wondered whether Theresa took her own photos or simply coloured pre-existing CdVs, which would obviously have been less work. I also realised that the 'windows' behind the curtains may be a painted screen which she or her artist brother would probably have been capable of doing. The fact they she uses a curved top to the image is reminiscent of the style used by the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood around that time. Interestingly, most of the CdV people you mention have examples of their work on ebay here, but there's no sign of anything by Theresa, and I'm even wondering if that's her writing on he back (or of the commissioner) given that she didn't use the regular kind of frames (no point as she's moving house/studio about every six months by the look of it!). Her's is a strange and interesting tale, which I might write up in hopes that it might ring bells with someone. Rose has some amazing stories of women photographers already, but we agreed that Theresa is really interesting, so I hope we can help you find out more about her and her work and how it came into your collection. And of course who the people sitting beside the green-covered table might be! We'll look forward to the next episode. Anne 

Hi Anne, thanks for your reply. I'm not sure about where to locate the family tree link - do you mean on Ancestry?

I think it is probably is her writing her details on the back of the CDV portraits. If she was a short lived business and/or shifting around a lot (which she appears to have been) then paying for and waiting for printed mounts would have been more trouble and expense than it is worth. This is something I see quite a bit in a colonial context - in early photography in Aotearoa New Zealand there were many itinerant or short lived photographic enterprises and I treasure when I find the colonial equivalent of this - handwritten photographer's details in ink on the back (usually). It is rare and often has an interesting story that moves the narrative away from the mass standardisation of larger more stable studios.

Lissa



Anne Strathie said:

Hi, Lissa

I've managed to do quite a bit of checking on the information you put up yesterday.  I can't find any reference in a trade directory to Theresa being at the South Hanover Street address, but she may have been working out of there as it's shown here as the premises of a CdV photographer https://footlightnotes.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/ch-bartell-active-l....

I've also checked the names of the other CdV people - the one in St Andrews is fairly eminent and the university there has a lot of their work in their collection; the Glasgow ones were all practicing around the same time and most of them advertised in the Glasgow Herald (equivalent of the Press in Christchurch, long-standing, everyone read it). I was interested to see that one was also a portrait painter and wondered if that was a connection. The Main Street one is American (Buffalo NY) and the Irish ones are a puzzle, but Theresa's husband left Glasgow quite soon after they were married and went to Ireland. There's some strange things in her life which I've added to public record information in an Ancestry family tree, which you might enjoy reading through - it would show you the various addresses, which might let you identify the timing of the photographs. Rose and I have made contact by e-mail now and I can 'invite' you to Theresa's family tree. There are several Paisley Road addresses for her, as it's a huge long road, with terraces and blocks in it which have separate names. I wondered what the subject of the CdVs are (e.g. of other women, suggesting that the subjects might have been assessing different photographer's work, then deciding to use Theresa) - but either way it's disproportionately Scottish but possibily a collection made at the time, rather than later? I also wondered whether Theresa took her own photos or simply coloured pre-existing CdVs, which would obviously have been less work. I also realised that the 'windows' behind the curtains may be a painted screen which she or her artist brother would probably have been capable of doing. The fact they she uses a curved top to the image is reminiscent of the style used by the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood around that time. Interestingly, most of the CdV people you mention have examples of their work on ebay here, but there's no sign of anything by Theresa, and I'm even wondering if that's her writing on he back (or of the commissioner) given that she didn't use the regular kind of frames (no point as she's moving house/studio about every six months by the look of it!). Her's is a strange and interesting tale, which I might write up in hopes that it might ring bells with someone. Rose has some amazing stories of women photographers already, but we agreed that Theresa is really interesting, so I hope we can help you find out more about her and her work and how it came into your collection. And of course who the people sitting beside the green-covered table might be! We'll look forward to the next episode. Anne 

Hi Rose - thanks for your reply and I hope you have seen the images. Apologies for not replying directly earlier - I'm not used to posting on this forum.

Lissa

Rose Teanby said:

Hi Lissa

I am so glad to hear of this work being located, having tried to find an example of Theresa's photography with no success.

Can I add some details? Miss Dessurne of Lyndoch Place advertised her photographic business in the Glasgow Sentinel, March 15 1856 and married William Browning in June 1856. 

She appears in the 1857-8 Post Office Directory as Browning, Mrs W (late Miss Dessurne) photographic miniature painter, 2 Lynedoch pl, Woodlands Road.

Theresa also exhibited five coloured collodion positives at the 1855 Glasgow British Association Exhibition - details here: http://peib.dmu.ac.uk/itemphotographer.php?photogNo=516&orderby... 

I assume this is the correct person and hope this helps in some way. Do you have a link to the image?

Best wishes, Rose

Hi, Lissa - that's interesting that you've seen that style before. If you're a member of Ancestry, you should be able to find the tree, which I've called "A Theresa Browning Family Tree" - which is here https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/tree/174784166/family/family.... I have her down as Theresa Dessurne, born 1828, Middlesex, England. If that doesn't work for you, drop me an e-mail to astrathie@waitrose.com and I'll invite you to look at it. I've discovered quite a bit more of the story, which doesn't fit in to the family tree easily, so I'm uploading the latest draft of that so you can see if that works. If so, I'll finish that off tomorrow and get it to you in its (so far) complete state. This has been a joint effort with Rose, who had found some Glasgow press coverage already about her brother, to supplement the Ancestry information I'd found. We've also had a bit of luck in that Yale Archives have agreed to scan and send their Theresa CdVs (so described) as well. All the best, Anne


Lissa Mitchell said:

Hi Anne, thanks for your reply. I'm not sure about where to locate the family tree link - do you mean on Ancestry?

I think it is probably is her writing her details on the back of the CDV portraits. If she was a short lived business and/or shifting around a lot (which she appears to have been) then paying for and waiting for printed mounts would have been more trouble and expense than it is worth. This is something I see quite a bit in a colonial context - in early photography in Aotearoa New Zealand there were many itinerant or short lived photographic enterprises and I treasure when I find the colonial equivalent of this - handwritten photographer's details in ink on the back (usually). It is rare and often has an interesting story that moves the narrative away from the mass standardisation of larger more stable studios.

Lissa



Anne Strathie said:

Hi, Lissa

I've managed to do quite a bit of checking on the information you put up yesterday.  I can't find any reference in a trade directory to Theresa being at the South Hanover Street address, but she may have been working out of there as it's shown here as the premises of a CdV photographer https://footlightnotes.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/ch-bartell-active-l....

I've also checked the names of the other CdV people - the one in St Andrews is fairly eminent and the university there has a lot of their work in their collection; the Glasgow ones were all practicing around the same time and most of them advertised in the Glasgow Herald (equivalent of the Press in Christchurch, long-standing, everyone read it). I was interested to see that one was also a portrait painter and wondered if that was a connection. The Main Street one is American (Buffalo NY) and the Irish ones are a puzzle, but Theresa's husband left Glasgow quite soon after they were married and went to Ireland. There's some strange things in her life which I've added to public record information in an Ancestry family tree, which you might enjoy reading through - it would show you the various addresses, which might let you identify the timing of the photographs. Rose and I have made contact by e-mail now and I can 'invite' you to Theresa's family tree. There are several Paisley Road addresses for her, as it's a huge long road, with terraces and blocks in it which have separate names. I wondered what the subject of the CdVs are (e.g. of other women, suggesting that the subjects might have been assessing different photographer's work, then deciding to use Theresa) - but either way it's disproportionately Scottish but possibily a collection made at the time, rather than later? I also wondered whether Theresa took her own photos or simply coloured pre-existing CdVs, which would obviously have been less work. I also realised that the 'windows' behind the curtains may be a painted screen which she or her artist brother would probably have been capable of doing. The fact they she uses a curved top to the image is reminiscent of the style used by the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood around that time. Interestingly, most of the CdV people you mention have examples of their work on ebay here, but there's no sign of anything by Theresa, and I'm even wondering if that's her writing on he back (or of the commissioner) given that she didn't use the regular kind of frames (no point as she's moving house/studio about every six months by the look of it!). Her's is a strange and interesting tale, which I might write up in hopes that it might ring bells with someone. Rose has some amazing stories of women photographers already, but we agreed that Theresa is really interesting, so I hope we can help you find out more about her and her work and how it came into your collection. And of course who the people sitting beside the green-covered table might be! We'll look forward to the next episode. Anne 

Attachments:

That's great - thank you and fantastic about the Yale ones - it would help to compare them. I can open the document and will go read it now. 

Lissa

Anne Strathie said:

Hi, Lissa - that's interesting that you've seen that style before. If you're a member of Ancestry, you should be able to find the tree, which I've called "A Theresa Browning Family Tree" - which is here https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/tree/174784166/family/family.... I have her down as Theresa Dessurne, born 1828, Middlesex, England. If that doesn't work for you, drop me an e-mail to astrathie@waitrose.com and I'll invite you to look at it. I've discovered quite a bit more of the story, which doesn't fit in to the family tree easily, so I'm uploading the latest draft of that so you can see if that works. If so, I'll finish that off tomorrow and get it to you in its (so far) complete state. This has been a joint effort with Rose, who had found some Glasgow press coverage already about her brother, to supplement the Ancestry information I'd found. We've also had a bit of luck in that Yale Archives have agreed to scan and send their Theresa CdVs (so described) as well. All the best, Anne


Lissa Mitchell said:

Hi Anne, thanks for your reply. I'm not sure about where to locate the family tree link - do you mean on Ancestry?

I think it is probably is her writing her details on the back of the CDV portraits. If she was a short lived business and/or shifting around a lot (which she appears to have been) then paying for and waiting for printed mounts would have been more trouble and expense than it is worth. This is something I see quite a bit in a colonial context - in early photography in Aotearoa New Zealand there were many itinerant or short lived photographic enterprises and I treasure when I find the colonial equivalent of this - handwritten photographer's details in ink on the back (usually). It is rare and often has an interesting story that moves the narrative away from the mass standardisation of larger more stable studios.

Lissa



Anne Strathie said:

Hi, Lissa

I've managed to do quite a bit of checking on the information you put up yesterday.  I can't find any reference in a trade directory to Theresa being at the South Hanover Street address, but she may have been working out of there as it's shown here as the premises of a CdV photographer https://footlightnotes.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/ch-bartell-active-l....

I've also checked the names of the other CdV people - the one in St Andrews is fairly eminent and the university there has a lot of their work in their collection; the Glasgow ones were all practicing around the same time and most of them advertised in the Glasgow Herald (equivalent of the Press in Christchurch, long-standing, everyone read it). I was interested to see that one was also a portrait painter and wondered if that was a connection. The Main Street one is American (Buffalo NY) and the Irish ones are a puzzle, but Theresa's husband left Glasgow quite soon after they were married and went to Ireland. There's some strange things in her life which I've added to public record information in an Ancestry family tree, which you might enjoy reading through - it would show you the various addresses, which might let you identify the timing of the photographs. Rose and I have made contact by e-mail now and I can 'invite' you to Theresa's family tree. There are several Paisley Road addresses for her, as it's a huge long road, with terraces and blocks in it which have separate names. I wondered what the subject of the CdVs are (e.g. of other women, suggesting that the subjects might have been assessing different photographer's work, then deciding to use Theresa) - but either way it's disproportionately Scottish but possibily a collection made at the time, rather than later? I also wondered whether Theresa took her own photos or simply coloured pre-existing CdVs, which would obviously have been less work. I also realised that the 'windows' behind the curtains may be a painted screen which she or her artist brother would probably have been capable of doing. The fact they she uses a curved top to the image is reminiscent of the style used by the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood around that time. Interestingly, most of the CdV people you mention have examples of their work on ebay here, but there's no sign of anything by Theresa, and I'm even wondering if that's her writing on he back (or of the commissioner) given that she didn't use the regular kind of frames (no point as she's moving house/studio about every six months by the look of it!). Her's is a strange and interesting tale, which I might write up in hopes that it might ring bells with someone. Rose has some amazing stories of women photographers already, but we agreed that Theresa is really interesting, so I hope we can help you find out more about her and her work and how it came into your collection. And of course who the people sitting beside the green-covered table might be! We'll look forward to the next episode. Anne 

Hi, Lissa - that's great the document worked - I'll finish it off and try and get it to you and Rose your time on Monday, in time for International Women's Day! It's beginning to look as if she took over from her brother and that their way of working starts from painting rather than photography as such (like Fox Talbot starting from drawing). Hope you enjoy reading about Theresa's interesting life! Anne

Hi, Lissa and Rose

Thanks to the Scotland's People website, I've been able to complete the story of Theresa Browning/Dessurne - and also learned quite a lot about my home city in the process. I hope this is helpful for your research - I'll also let you know when I hear back from Yale University Archives about their images. Please feel free to draw on any of this information - it's a sad story in many ways, but I admire Theresa's tenacity. Hopefully the addresses and dates will allow you, Lissa, to date your photographs quite closely - it will be interesting to see if there are addresses and/or dates on Yale's images. Feel free to draw on any of the information - it's all basically in the public domain, either on the British Newspaper Archives, Ancestry or Scotland's People.

With best wishes, Anne

Attachments:

Thanks Anne - that is great.

Very best,

Lissa

Anne Strathie said:

Hi, Lissa and Rose

Thanks to the Scotland's People website, I've been able to complete the story of Theresa Browning/Dessurne - and also learned quite a lot about my home city in the process. I hope this is helpful for your research - I'll also let you know when I hear back from Yale University Archives about their images. Please feel free to draw on any of this information - it's a sad story in many ways, but I admire Theresa's tenacity. Hopefully the addresses and dates will allow you, Lissa, to date your photographs quite closely - it will be interesting to see if there are addresses and/or dates on Yale's images. Feel free to draw on any of the information - it's all basically in the public domain, either on the British Newspaper Archives, Ancestry or Scotland's People.

With best wishes, Anne

Hi, Lissa

I'm attaching an updated version of the notes, as one of the addresses on one of your photographs wasn't listed in any directories, but also appeared on the reverse of a photograph in Yale University's archives. I've also added details of the three known pieces of sheet music Theresa had published between 1851 and 1865 - a woman of several talents clearly! Anne

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