Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Day at the Photographer Studio

Long coats. Hm. No one around here owns one. Where do you suppose this photograph was taken?

view profile lamusa37 says: In a studio for an occasion.

view profile meagain625 says: This is a great old shot! You did well :)

view profile anyjazz65 says: Thanks lamusa and meagain. I just can't figure out where it was taken.

view profile cornerofthefield says: I think it was taken in a cold South American Climate - Bolivia? Peru? Perhaps someplace with a strong enough European influence for a well to do local family to not only have modern clothing, but access to a photography studio - Argentina? Chile?

view profile anyjazz65 says: I think you may be on to something. In some ways these look a bit like the North American Natives. But, Bolivia or Peru is a very good guess too. I am hoping someone will recognize the clothing style and maybe that will narrow it a bit.

view profile Dunottar says: Hmm. Looks like a bamboo and rattan chair. The floor covering could be patterned rattan, but is more likely tile. The childrens' faces do suggest a mix of races, and I suspect Spanish/Portuguese on one side of the family. The Philippines is possible but unlikely. Mum is dressed like Paddington Bear, so that points towards Peru.

Whoever they were, they had enough economic clout to have one set of Sunday Bests (unless the coats were provided to hide a multitude of evils) and to afford a photo shoot. A photo shoot like this would have cost about 2 days' wages for a labourer in Tasmania just prior to WWI.

Where's Papa?

view profile anyjazz65 says: Good point. The nationality does seem mixed. Philippine or Spanish do seem evident.

The long coats on three of them suggest a cooler climate too. It doesn’t look like they were trying to hide any poor clothing judging from the apparel that is showing. I agree they must have been affluent enough to afford some luxuries such as the photograph itself. You are right, photography wasn’t cheap. I hadn’t noticed the “Paddington Bear” look. Mother has a broach/watch pinned to her coat too.
The littlest one is a fashion plate; note the decorative button near the cuff of his short pants and the buttoned wide belt on his coat. His shoes are white but do seem too big.
The older boy is wearing high button shoes. Both boys are wearing long white stockings. Surely that might be a clue to the date but I don’t know clothing styles that well.
When examining the people in a photograph one thing I always study is the hairline. Of course long hair can always be combed and pulled into any style but the hairline is usually still evident. The two handsome boys and one of the beautiful girls have a part over the left eye but the taller girl’s hair is parted in the middle. Although the little one’s part does look a bit forced. Mom’s part could be anywhere. They all have straight, black or very dark, shiny hair.
Both girls have an overbite that gives them that Bardot pout. All three women have nearly identical eye shapes.
The bamboo/rattan chairs sure get around. I have found them in photographs from Texas to Vermont. I suspect they were lightweight and easy to move for posing. And they were interesting and photographed well, in case the portrait subject turned out a bit dull.
CoolWhat a day!My chair is bigger than your chair.

view profilecornerofthefield says: One thing that puzzles me is that the young girls do NOT have coats on. In fact, their dresses are white(or light colored) and very summer like.

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view profile anyjazz65 says: That confuses me too. And mom even has a hat.
Both girls have twin braids with huge bows. One arranged in front and one down their back. What era and style was that from? I have seen it before but can't place it.
I just noticed too that mother has a long skirt and a jacket, not a long coat as I had thought. The tail of the jacket falls over and behind her left leg. There are no buttons showing on the skirt as there are on the jacket. I don't know why I missed that before. I must be slipping. We use my memory to drain spaghetti.
The chair is puzzling too. There seems to be only one arm. Must be one of those like the middle one just above. Mom's left elbow is much higher than the right. And the right chair arm would be just about where you can see the girl's white dress. The chair back seems one sided too. Here's another question. Is daughter number one wearing a knee length skirt?

view profile ed ed says: it's so interesting to see these old pictures and the discussion they provoke, anyjazz. I'd have suggested Mexican, but what do i know? were you a p.i. in a previous life, aj? there's not much left to investigate, but do you think the bottom button of the righthand boy's coat is a mismatched replacement or just in shadow???

view profile Dunottar says: They use our memories to drain spaghetti. :-D

view profile anyjazz65 says: @eded: Yes, these old photographs do challenge the imagination and evoke some pretty interesting discussions. If the buttons are miss-matched then it is the only flaw in their otherwise fairly elegant clothing. I suppose too the buttons could be of some natural bone or ivory that varies in color a bit. Or as you say, it could be just caught in a shadow. I have looked at the original and I can't tell for sure.

@Dunottar: Yes. I have to check my wallet every morning to see who I am.

view profile soozika says: I haven't a clue where this may have been taken, but they surely never needed a paternity test for any of their kids ... oh, and that ubiquitous curly rattan chair! Seems like a standard prop in photo studios all over.

view profile Bodie Bailey says: I'm not sure where, but I'm thinking they may be wearing their best clothes and since I don't see a Dad. They may have been coming from a funeral might might have been the Dad's. The look on their faces may have conveyed that feeling, just a thought.

view profile anyjazz65 says: Hey, I never thought of that. Could very well be a funeral involved. Since there is no male in the pic, the possibility is that dad was the feature guest at the ceremony.

view profile cornerofthefield says: Do they wear white at funerals in South America - anyone know?

view profile Bodie Bailey says: I thought about the white, but if you don't have a lot of money you wear you best. There is something on the coat of the "Mother" that may be black pin or something like that.

view profile anyjazz65 says: Hm. I tend to agree that it was a solemn occasion about something. Perhaps a funeral was the occasion. Perhaps it was the father or another family member. The father might have been long-gone.
The thing pinned to mom’s coat I judged originally to be a pocket watch viewed a bit edge on. But that was only a guess even with a 600 DPI blowup. It could be anything. She isn’t wearing a wedding ring but in some cultures, that is not significant of anything. There are simple ear rings on all the women however. Try as I could, I cannot perceive a ring in Mom’s left ear. Does that signify something?
Another thing I did note as I looked over the print again, the boy’s shoes look too big for them. The white shoes on the left have bows and the straps are far too loose. Maybe they were hand-me-downs from one of the big sisters. The high button shoes on the right look also as if they could have once belonged to one of the sisters. They appear to have slightly elevated heels. This might have been the style for men too; I don’t know.
I finally decided too that the small spot at the cuff of the small boy’s shorts is a soiled spot, not a button. And, if as ed ed suggests, that is a miss-matched button on the coat at the left, the suspicion grows that these were merely the best clothes they had. Perhaps the only clothes for occasions like funerals.
As soozika says, there is no doubt that they are related. They have striking features. The boys quite handsome exuding an inner strength and the girls peer out at you with lovely, haunting eyes. The smaller boy has his hand on Mom’s skirt but somehow his attitude seems more protective than apprehensive. The older boy looks very confident, if not a bit blasé.
Another observation, apropos of nothing: All the children stood stock-still for the slow shutter of the times; Mom moved. Her face is the only part of the photo that is slightly blurred.
I think I wonder about these beautiful children more than any others I have encountered in “found” photographs.

For more interesting group photographs go HERE.

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Long lost negatives taken during the winter of 1944-45 at Bassingbourn AAF base in England.

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  1. This certainly is a puzzling portrait that may have no solution. My first choice would be the southwest, New Mexico or even California, but if they are outside the USA then my guess is Mexico because it seems more likely that the photo would find its way from there to the US than from the other countries in Central or South America. The chair was probably made in the Philippines but then might be imported to any photographer in the world.

    1. Thanks Mike Brubaker. I still can't decide about it. I have lots of family portraits but this one has always held my curiosity. The one-armed wicker chair was a popular studio prop for American photographers but it could have been anywhere. The facial features certainly make them related. Why the photograph turned up on this continent and how it got here will have to remain unknown I guess. It certainly provoked a lot of conversation.



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