Dating old photographs family history

Tintypes were cheap and were still used by UK street and beach photographers in the 1940s and 1950s – long after the Second World War.

From about 1865, the opalotype on white opal glass was introduced.

Up to this stage, photos were generally one-offs, there was no negative and multiple copies were impracticable.

Any copies required had to be photographed from the original – often with a distinct loss of quality.

Occasionally , daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, cartes de visite, cabinet cards and opalotypes were hand coloured.

Carte de visite and cabinet portraits were also enlarged, over-painted in oils or crayon and framed. By the very late 1890s and especially by the 1900s, the topographical postcard was becoming very popular.

These may be loose or in albums or they may be in the form of postcards or even fragile black and grey glass negatives.

It was, therefore, the quality of fabric and extravagance of trimmings that distinguished the dress of the affluent from that of the poorer classes – not in general its basic cut or shape.Having learned in the previous blog how photograph compositions and studio settings changed over the years, we now look closely at what our forebears are wearing in old photographs.In any kind of portrait it is often the subject's clothing that engages us most: fashion history is a fascinating topic and recognising the modes of different eras is an invaluable tool when trying to date unlabelled photographs.Family historians often wonder whether their poorer forebears would have been able to dress very fashionably.This is a good question but photographic evidence suggests that in many cases even humbler working ancestors followed the latest styles.

Leave a Reply