Friday, August 10, 2012

The New Victorians

When someone told me that they'd discovered an album of Victorian photographs, I got excited. Sadly, the actual pictures were a rather disappointing collection of faded images all smaller than the palm of my hand:

But thanks to Photoshop, even a print as unpromising as the one above can be transformed:

Admittedly, this probably isn't the most fascinating image I've come across (although I find it benignly soporific). However, some of the others are more interesting:


This picture may not immediately strike you, but zoom in and it comes alive:


In the photograph below, closer scrutiny reveals a figure in the hallway, a cat in the alley and a smiling Victorian:

I can also detect the trace of a smile in this photo:

Frustratingly, with photos as small as these (which were contact prints from the negatives), the resolution can be improved to a point where you have a tantalising glimpse of people's faces, but no more. Further magnification simply produces a blur.

This street scene and the one below were taken in France or Belgium, but I have no idea where.

Finally, my favourite photograph from the album:

This still life of a mantlepiece and its surroundings fascinates me. Its cluttered look is from an age in which most people had relatively few possessions, cherishing what they had, displaying them with pride.

My comparatively minimalist sitting room only has a couple of photos on display. The rest are on various hard drives, which will be completely redundant when civilisation collapses in 2027.

14 comments:

Richmonde said...

It's a bedroom - bed on left, washstand on right. I suppose that thing with the rug and the clutter on it is a fireguard.

Steerforth said...

Ah yes - I can see the bed quite clearly now. My bedroom's the place where all the rubbish goes when guests are coming, so it's probably even more cluttered than the Victorian one.

luis said...

In the Belgian/French photo with the woman wearing black in the foreground, there is a tower on the left that is still under construction. The one on the right looks complete.

It may belong to a gothic cathedral still under construction at the time.

Brett said...

I like how the cat in the alley is looking at the camera. Might the woman with her hands clasped be the same as the woman in the light-colored skirt and jacket in the next photo?

Gardener in the Distance said...

Steerforth, there's always so much we don't know. The Victorians opened an eye onto the world, a new world, one than was brimming with possibility. And yet, of course, it was rooted in what was then the present, as our own viewpoint is. The old is new, isn't it, I feel?

Tororo said...

One can imagine a time when these pictures spoke volumes to the persons they were intended to be shown to: "Look, I had the pictures of the kids you sent me framed, they hang in my bedroom now..." ..."We had fun in Auntie's garden, everybody is fine!" ... what's most moving is the thought of all the things about them that are lost now.

Steerforth said...

Luis - I hope that someone may recognise it and post an answer.

Brett - I think you're right. I've just zoomed in on the original and it looks like the same woman.

Gardener - I agree, particularly as these photos are snapshots rather than studio portraits. The scene with the crowd in the market square has an immediacy that reminds us that, as you say, the old is new.

Steerforth said...

Tororo - With some albums, I have enough clues to feel confident that if I had the time, I could find out something about the people in the photos, but this album didn't have a single placename or date. Their lives are lost, but I like the fact that they have now been seen by more people than ever, thanks to the internet.

Annabel (gaskella) said...

Your expertise with Photoshop brings these to life. I must get to grips with it one day ...

Steerforth said...

Thanks, but I'm no expert. I probably know less than 5% of the whole package. If you buy Photoshop Elements, rather than the complete software, that should be more than adequate.

Resolute Reader said...

Well, I am going to go completely out on a limb and suggest that it might be Rouen Cathedral, taken from this angle.

https://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=Rouen+Cathedral&hl=en&ll=49.439051,1.09502&spn=0.000518,0.00284&safe=off&hq=Rouen+Cathedral&radius=15000&t=h&layer=c&cbll=49.439051,1.095019&panoid=bqPPrgQ62vu2ZySv3lnTSg&cbp=11,351.71,,0,-9.86&z=19

That should take you to google street view.

Craig Holmes said...

Hi,

Are you sure those two images are France or Belgium. Whilse I can see the Cafe sign (with accented e) in the picture with the cart, it seems to be advertising something at 5d (five old uk pence).

Also the shop on the bottom left looks to have the word AMUSEMENTS running across the top.

Steerforth said...

Resolute Reader - I missed your link. It looks similar, but isn't the front slightly different? Perhaps I'm looking from the wrong angle.

Craig - I can't see a sign saying 5d anywhere, but yes, it could be 'amusements' (although many French words end in ...ements)

Miss Simmonds Says said...

These are fascinating. The ladies outside of the house especially. What's the lady doing with the curtain? Is she being a bit silly and playful? I hope so!