Victorian Husbands and Wives

Thank you to Lisby

30 comments to Victorian Husbands and Wives

  • Amy

    Some of them definately look related….2, 20 and 23!!
    Good lord.
    What surprises me is the stern faces on all of them really, no-one looks happy at all!

  • John Simpson

    Some of those wives look like the husbands wearing different wigs and clothes.

  • Nigel

    Goodness! I am now slightly traumatised! I worry about my ancestors…

    A great find and the only ones I might possibly identify with were the very first! They at least looked as though they might have a sense of humour! :-)

  • Alison

    For the record, they usually their mouths shut / look stern for the photo, due to bad teeth.

  • Amy

    Wow yah, very intense looking individuals!

  • Amanda

    The reason that everyone looks so stiff and unhappy is that when studio portraits were taken, any movement would cause a blur, so smiling was discouraged. Also (and this is just my assumption), the culture back then dictated that a serious picture showed that you were of good moral character. You see it even in paintings from the era.
    So while all these people look unhappy, they probably laughed and lived just as much as we do now.

  • Dyan

    Based on body language, some of those couple REALLY liked each other, and some of them did not. It’s not even about facial expression.

  • davidabl

    Up until the 2nd world war a lot of upperclass folks considered it undignified to “grin’ for their
    portraits.. probably (in part) a left-over of the technical restraints of earlier photography.
    As noted by a previous poster, most painted portraits were pretty damn sober as well, for much the same reasons, ie. the neccessity to hold a pose for several minutes for photography..and for hours for a painted portrait, if done ‘from life.”

  • Mary

    Those are not all from the Victorian era. The clothing in two of those photos is Edwardian.

    Frankly, to me at least some of them look like modern fakes. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were taken in the past few years.

    The very first one, in particular, looks like it was shot in one of those studios where you dress in vintage costumes, and then “antiqued.” I’ve never seen facial hair like his in real Victorian photos, and his cravat is a mess. He’s too unkempt/unshaven-looking. Her hair is wrong. I don’t believe a Victorian woman would pose with her arms crossed like that, either.

  • Jacqui Cuthbertson

    I absolutely love old photo’s like these, I could look at them all day! :)

  • Yvonne

    Oh my god it’s impossbible they look so ugly because of the photography technique! There is no person I would invite home!

  • Gladeye

    This was not a good period for hair. Must have been in a transitional stage.

  • Molly

    The sternness is because the exposure lasted around 30 – 90 seconds as noted previously any movement during this time would blur and ruin the photograph. This was after all the waiting while the photographer set everything up – not a quick process! So it was easiest to hold a neutral expression, certainly not a smile, or the sitters where given a word to say at the point the picture would be taken which also left them serious faced.

    What is not evident is that sitters were often also “clamped” in vices that supported their necks or waists to help them maintain their pose. It resulted in the stiffness seen in the pictures. Late Victorians also had the ability to airbrush so often the clamps were visible and airbrushed out.

    I find it interesting how they seemed really uncomfortable with props though – the stiff grasp on flowers or books!

  • The Poet Laura-eate

    Fascinating and eye-opening posting. Thanks.

    Though the stern-looking faces probably had something to do with how ashamed most Victorians were by the state of their teeth (a more taboo subject even than sex) as well as the long exposure times needed to take a photograph in those days, never mind whether they loved each other or not!

  • James Cloninger

    I guess the hipster chinbeard is yet another thing they swiped from a previous generation.

  • Tom

    Definitely agree that some of these people must be related and, I hope, not married. Some serious family resemblances in a few of these pics!

  • Daniel Latinus

    Michael Lesy, the author of Wisconsin Death Trip points that photography in this era was really a form of iconography, and was bound up with issues of memory and mortality. Making a photograph was a solemn act, akin to attending a religious service, and displays of levity would have been out of please.

  • MizElana

    C’mon people, surely you know that the amount of time these old cameras took to expose a photo was on the order of up to 1 minute. These people look stern because they were instructed not to smile as that would be the expression one could hold for up to a minute without the picture coming out blurry.

  • Tom

    As a former portrait photographer I can say with certainty that Mary is correct, although not for the same reasons she stated. The photo is a modern-day fake. Right click on the photo and open it in a new window. Go to the new window and click on the photo again to enlarge it. Look into their eyes. The white reflection in their pupils is a perfect sqaure, because it is a typical reflection of a modern day light diffuser box used in indoor portrait photography. If you look at the shadows under their noses you will see that it is a soft shadow that matches the angle of the light box. This is called “Rembrant lighting” after Rembrandt’s preferred light origin in his painted portraits. Victorian photographers did not use Rembrandt lighting, they used direct frontal lighting with flash powder that left far harsher shadows, or no lighting at all. This “eyeball trick” is how one photographer can tell how another photographer placed the lighting for a photo. Look at any professionally-shot photo such as clothing or make-up models and you will see the same.

  • Mati

    I’m suspicious of #1, too, although they could just be lively and attractive people fortuitously well-photographed. It’s just – there’s too much expression on his face, her hands are wrong… can’t explain it. His facial hair could be more a lack of natural gifts than grooming. The thin shadowy mustache would be unusual now, too, but exists.

    Intrigued by #10. He’s wearing that crazy sweater, looks as though he can’t sit still, they seem to like each other.

  • Deven

    These people are ALL cousins!

  • MrBig

    1st picture is Hugh Jackman.

  • dearmad

    #1 should be removed.

    #3: the woman is HOT!

    that is all.

  • sparklesmom

    some of these people are dead. look at the eyes, and you can tell. Deasth photos were common at the time.

  • leigh odimah

    Love the couples who incredibly miserable and cross, touch and show the signs of intimacy. must have been the pose of the day! hoping not one of these hair styles comes back into fashion… although! I see the fashion in men’s facial hair in London is getting dangerously close.. :)

    Thank you ♥ this set !

  • Jinx

    Amazing photos. Some of these are VERY early, late 1840′s to early 1850′s. I agree, a few DO look too crisp to be as early as the clothing indicates, and I’m wondering.

    A few DO look like brother sister pairs, but all of them are superb photos.

    As far as lighting from above, some itinerant photographers set up a “set” with a painted canvas backdrop, and used natural outdoor lighting. Others used a “glass house” setup to use daylight.

    One photo is Edwardian, one is about 1885, the ones with the frizzed hair and bangs are 1870′s, and the rest are American Civil War and before, according to hair and clothing styles.

    #2 COULD be a Southworth and Hawes, soft yet crisp feel. Very nice collection!

  • Kate

    …am I the only one who was looking at the woman in #2 and trying to determine if it was, in fact, a woman? I mean, the facial shape, the hands – good gosh!

  • ltrainxpress

    People had harsher features back then because it was simply a harder life. I always here commericials and people say that today we are so overworked and never have any family time or personal time. The work we know today in no way compares with what people went through back then. 14 hour days were the norm, unsafe working conditions, no unions, no social security. We work mostly 8 to 10 hours a day and most of the day isn’t occupied by work. We have more free time than ever.

  • louis3000

    I also think the 1st picture is a fake, it seems obvious. I agree with sparklesmom as well, some of the models were likely dead when it was taken : the men on picture 2, 8, 12, 13, 15 at least, seem to be.

  • Something that the camera catches – everyone looks like they are mad! Checkout the eyes. The women look so glomy and the men bored – what’s changed?

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