British photographic history

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Camille Silvy made a number of wedding photographs in his London studio, the earliest being from June 1860. How early is this in the history of wedding photography? Has anyone come across such a history? Many thanks!

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Hi, Mark. Audrey Linkman's The Victorians. Photographic Portraits (Tauris Parke Books, 1993) discusses wedding photographs and although her examples are from the 1870s on it might be worth contacting her. She is very good on social photography. The last I heard she was at the Open University.

Michael.
Barbara Norfleet's book Wedding, from the exhibition, Simon and Schuster, New York (1979)

Simon Charsley has a chapter on the history of wedding photography in Rites of Marrying: The Wedding Industry in Scotland, Manchester University Press (1991)

Avril Lansdell covers the history of wedding fashion, using wedding photography in Wedding Fashions, 1860-1980, Shire Publications; ( Revised edition, 1999)

Also, bridal photography goes back to the daguerreotype period. Southworth and Hawes were well-known for their bridal portraits. The Feigenbaum Collection of Southworth & Hawes, contained several examples of brides and bridesmaids. Perhaps the most unusual S&H bridal daguerreotype was a stereoscopic portrait of a bride consisting of two whole-plate daguerreotypes which was produced for their Grand Parlor Stereoscope. This image inspired a poem in the Boston "Atlas" for April, 1854 entitled "The Bride of the Stereoscope." The poem was printed on the back of the Season Tickets sold for viewing of the Grand Parlor Stereoscope at the Southworth & Hawes studio, and is reproduced on page 37 in the book The Spirit of Fact (David R. Godine and George Eastman House, 1976). There is an illustration of a whole-plate of a bride on the same page. I believe there are also a number of images of brides in Grant Romer and Brian Wallis' Young America. The Daguerreotypes of Southworth and Hawes but the book isn't easily accessible to me at the moment.
Dear Michael

Excellent idea - I will email Audrey. All best, Mark
Michael Pritchard said:
Hi, Mark. Audrey Linkman's The Victorians. Photographic Portraits (Tauris Parke Books, 1993) discusses wedding photographs and although her examples are from the 1870s on it might be worth contacting her. She is very good on social photography. The last I heard she was at the Open University.

Michael.
As someone who has seen their fair share of cdvs, wedding examples are still in my experience a somewhat rare phenomenon, certainly in the 1860s or even 1870s. The vagaries of wet plate photography seemed to have hamstrung photographers from attempting to photograph weddings in churches or at receptions and unless a bride went straight to the studio in her wedding attire my impression is that couples redressed specially to have their wedding portraits taken. Certainly by the 1880 and 1890s wedding cabinet photos (i.e dry plate images) of grooms, brides and as couples were much more common. Cheers! Marcel
Mark - On behalf of John Hannavy...

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Hi Mark,
I have been doing some research myself along similar lines, and the earliest datable wedding portrait yet discovered seems to have been a daguerreotype taken in Boston in 1854, although the popularity of stereo cards of 'brides' in wedding dresses in the later 1850s suggests the practice must have been widespread before then.

I have a stereo pair of a wedding couple from the same sort of period, bride in white dress festooned with flowers. The idea seems to have taken off and become very popular very quickly. The idea of the white wedding, with its lavish wedding dress, obviously also dates from about the same time, and like many Victorian innovations, was adopted first by the wealthy – perhaps to emulate the opulence of the ball gowns worn at court – and only slowly filtered down to the less well off.


From the late 1850s, and through the 60s and 70s, the popularity of both stereocards and cartes-de-visite influenced the progress of such new fashion ideas as the ‘white wedding’. What the photograph-buying public saw as ‘fashionable’ in the pictures they purchased, they presumably wished to emulate in their own lives. It would have been only a short step for a young girl to progress from admiring the commercially produced 'wedding tableau' pictures to imaging herself as the bride in such photographs.

Again like so many Victorian fashions, the practice of commissioning wedding photographs owes much to the stimulus given by Queen Victoria. While her own wedding in 1840 was well before the days of practical photographic portraiture, her children’s weddings were all photographed. What the Queen did, others copied.

Best wishes

John
Dear John

Thank you very much for this most illuminating post. It is very good of you to share your research. The whole issue is now much more clear to me. The reference to Queen Victoria is particularly helpful, as she was a source of considerable patronage for Silvy.

All the best, Mark

Michael Pritchard said:
Mark - On behalf of John Hannavy...

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Hi Mark,
I have been doing some research myself along similar lines, and the earliest datable wedding portrait yet discovered seems to have been a daguerreotype taken in Boston in 1854, although the popularity of stereo cards of 'brides' in wedding dresses in the later 1850s suggests the practice must have been widespread before then.

I have a stereo pair of a wedding couple from the same sort of period, bride in white dress festooned with flowers. The idea seems to have taken off and become very popular very quickly. The idea of the white wedding, with its lavish wedding dress, obviously also dates from about the same time, and like many Victorian innovations, was adopted first by the wealthy – perhaps to emulate the opulence of the ball gowns worn at court – and only slowly filtered down to the less well off.


From the late 1850s, and through the 60s and 70s, the popularity of both stereocards and cartes-de-visite influenced the progress of such new fashion ideas as the ‘white wedding’. What the photograph-buying public saw as ‘fashionable’ in the pictures they purchased, they presumably wished to emulate in their own lives. It would have been only a short step for a young girl to progress from admiring the commercially produced 'wedding tableau' pictures to imaging herself as the bride in such photographs.

Again like so many Victorian fashions, the practice of commissioning wedding photographs owes much to the stimulus given by Queen Victoria. While her own wedding in 1840 was well before the days of practical photographic portraiture, her children’s weddings were all photographed. What the Queen did, others copied.

Best wishes

John
Hi Mark,

Thought I'd add these two pictures, as they demonstrate my suggested link between ball gowns and wedding dresses, and the link between QV and white weddings. The first is obviously one of Fenton's royal portraits 1853/4, the other is a stereo card (I believe attributed to Silvester) and dated about 1856

John

Dear John

Many thanks - very interesting. Much appreciated.

All best, Mark

John Hannavy said:
Hi Mark,

Thought I'd add these two pictures, as they demonstrate my suggested link between ball gowns and wedding dresses, and the link between QV and white weddings. The first is obviously one of Fenton's royal portraits 1853/4, the other is a stereo card (I believe attributed to Silvester) and dated about 1856

John

Mark,

If you want to examine one of the Southworth & Hawes bridal portraits mentioned in this thread, we have one you can see. As suggested above, there are a number of them illustrated in the Romer & Wallis catalogue raisonné. Also, we've got an obscure American exhibition catalogue called "Wedding". It shows portraits from all eras including a stunning daguerreotype of a bride I have always coveted, which once belonged to a Boston collector. I've seen many 'brides' in stereo and carte de visite format. Dating them precisely is always tricky but I think a number of stereos would be reliably pre-1860.

Best,

Ken
Dear Ken

Thank you very much. I have completed my text on Silvy and am now exhausted! I'd love to see the daguerreotype when I've returned to normality and am once again in your part of the world.

All best, Mark

Ken Jacobson said:
Mark,

If you want to examine one of the Southworth & Hawes bridal portraits mentioned in this thread, we have one you can see. As suggested above, there are a number of them illustrated in the Romer & Wallis catalogue raisonné. Also, we've got an obscure American exhibition catalogue called "Wedding". It shows portraits from all eras including a stunning daguerreotype of a bride I have always coveted, which once belonged to a Boston collector. I've seen many 'brides' in stereo and carte de visite format. Dating them precisely is always tricky but I think a number of stereos would be reliably pre-1860.

Best,

Ken
Mark ... Bit late in the day - both for my response, and the photograph! But I can't resist reminding you that the sainted Julia took a photograph of her prospective daughter-in-law in her wedding dress in November 1869 (JMC catalogue 193).
Cheers ... Colin
Dear Colin

Thank you - I'd forgotten, and it is interesting, of course!

All best, Mark

Colin Ford said:
Mark ... Bit late in the day - both for my response, and the photograph! But I can't resist reminding you that the sainted Julia took a photograph of her prospective daughter-in-law in her wedding dress in November 1869 (JMC catalogue 193).
Cheers ... Colin

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