Amateur Portraits - Victorian and Edwardian Photographs
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First Steps: Amateur Portraits


Though there were many early amateur photographers in the 1850s and 1860s (Lewis Carroll, Lady Howarden ... ) amateur photography really took off in the 1880s, easier equipment made this possible and there were many hundred of thousands of such photographers. For the purposes of family photographs most of these will not apply - unless you were lucky enough to have had a keen amateur in the family.

The 1880s amateur photograph was likely to be an albumen print (egg white) toned with gold. The paper used was very fine and thin so that left on a surface it would roll up like a tube. To prevent this most were stuck onto album pages or in book form, the size may be trimmed down to anything but 15.5cm x 11cm was a useful size. Many of these will have over exposed areas and perhaps yellowing due to inexperienced processing rather than light fading. Pages of the albums can be any size but 42cm x 30cm allowed four photos to be mounted.

The Brownie Camera was introduced in February 1900 and the numerous Kodaks that followed it produced a flood of family snaps. Unlike today the camera was held at waist level and this perspective shows in many snaps.

Many of the 1905 -1908 snaps will be found stuck (glued) into albums, framed by a cut-out cover page of ovals, circles and oblongs.

By the late 1920s the standard print on white paper with a gloss finish would perhaps have Velox printed on the back (10.2cm x 8.2cm) (9.8cm x 7.5cm), with odd numbers on the back. Sizes: (8.3cm x 5.9cm), (10cm x 7.3cm), (8.6cm x 5.9cm) and all should have a white border of 3cm.

The 1940s snaps tend to be stored in albums with stiff covers and black or coloured pages with the photos mounted using photocorners. Sizes: 1946 (11.2cm x 8.6cm), (8.6cm x 8.6cm), (10.5cm x 8.0cm), Ridax (8.4cm x 6.1cm), (10.4cm x 6.5cm), Velox 1946 (8.2cm x 5.8cm), Velox 1947 (8.5cm x 6.cm), Rose Magna Print 1945 (8cm x 7.5cm), Rose Magna Print 1945 (7.5cm x 5.3cm), Velox 1945 (5.8cm x 5.8cm), 1948 print (11.4cm x 7.8cm), Velox 1948 (6.7cm x 4.8cm), 1949 print (11.2cm x 8.4cm), Velox 1950 (11.4cm x 7cm).

Amateur photographs are not my real area of interest or study but I have presented above what I have - in the hope that it may prove useful.


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