TWO PRETTY TEENAGE GIRLS AND AN AKWARD POSE IN CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

This cabinet card portrait features two pretty teenagers in an awkward pose. Don’t blame them, blame the photographer. The girls are likely sisters, and they are well dressed, well coiffed, and wearing flowers and necklaces. What exactly was the photographer’s goal in assigning this pose. If the was trying to portray the warmth and love between two sisters; he failed. The girls were likely frozen with “photo studio anxiety” as they posed for this image. The photographer of this photograph is Louis A. Kraft (1855-1938). He operated a photography studio in Chicago, Illinois. There were times in his career that he was a solo practitioner and at other times he partnered with other photographers (Kraft & Harris, Abbot & Kraft). This cabinet card is in good condition (see scans).

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Published in: on September 19, 2018 at 12:00 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Right on! Your analysis sure nailed it. It would be interesting to see more of his views to see if the problem was endemic or just a version of a photographer’s ‘bad hair day’.

  2. I find your subjective opinion unnecessary. However, my subjective view of this portrait is that it is quiet and tender. I don’t disagree that they appear to be sisters – even twins. It is likely that this is a portrait of family members in mourning. The signature features are not only their modest hair-dressing, but also the traditional black clothing, and contemporary style of mourning flowers situated high on the bodice of the dress by the neckline or placed right on the collar of the mourning gown. – Also, please note that the young woman on the right is wearing a rosary: a religious feature common to 19th Century mourning dress.

    This is a graceful portrait of solemn, sweet sibling comfort and affection. There is nothing awkward about it. I suggest you consult classic poses such as this one to be found throughout centuries of typically European sculpture, stemming back to ancient Greece and Rome.

    So much for the “bad hair day”. This photographer was gently artful.

    Thank you as usual, Cabinet Card. It’s always interesting to read how you interpret your photographic samplings. This lovely remembrance is a terrific offering from CC. – Thanks again!

    • Thank you so much for your informative comment. When I first saw this photograph, I thought it might be a “mourning cabinet card”. I must have lost the thought and never mentioned it in my description. I appreciate your pointing out all the reasons that support the view that the photo depicts these girls grief. I am also appreciative of your sharing your subjective reaction to the photograph. I saw it as “awkward”, and you saw it as a “classic pose”. I am certain you are correct about it being a classic pose. Nevertheless, it struck me as “awkward”. Our different views are an example of why I have a passion for vintage photographs. The images tell a story without utilizing words. We respond to the photos in the same way people respond to the Rorschach ink blots. We see and interpret the images in our own individualized manner. Our interpretations depend on our personality, past experiences, knowledge, mood, and other variables. There is no right or wrong in our interpretations. Subjective responses to vintage photos fascinate me. Thanks again for leaving another interesting, informative, and thought provoking comment.

    • I have to disagree with you that it is a mourning photograph. The clothing could be blue or yellow or green – we can’t know because colors photographed differently with wet plate cameras. It isn’t a black and white photo like you would expect from the 20th century. So, the assumption that all photos of people in dark clothing to be wearing black is an unfortunate misunderstanding.

      Flowers were very commonly worn as a signal of matrimony, so this could be a wedding portrait.

      They were also used for Holy Communion and religious moments, so this could be a similar rite of passage.

      They could just like flowers, as floral emblems were tremendously popular in the 1880s, which is when this photograph was likely made, based on the clothes. Mourning flowers were generally used on the deceased, not the living.

      I agree that it is a graceful pose that shows tenderness between two subjects.

  3. I do know that those that were in mourning typically wore a small flowered emblem on the throat of their gown, blouse, whatever. – They typically wore them for as many months as they were in mourning, and so it was a sort of social “cue”. Regardless, loved your feedback. – Also, interesting point regarding how color photographed. A fun – actually, great site is Shorpy.com. They feature a photographic diary of architecture, people, nature – all stemming from the beginnings of photography through I’d say the 1970’s. The do a lot of fine “colorization” and some of the interpreters of color (obviously not for their terrific Kodachrome series – what fun! )of such images as this use a kind of “formula” that they apply for color-accuracy. You’d enjoy it. – Love this site, CC. P.S. I am particularly moved by the young lady on the right. Her profile is splendid. Best.

  4. I stand by (with) the original analysis. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a fine picture (better than most) to grace the family album. In those days most people rarely got photographed … for many an intimidating experience. .They wanted so to do it right and followed instructions. Some photographers could put the models at ease… make them feel natural … others did not … and it shows. These beautiful girls are intensely following the photographers’ instructions and staring off into space. The composition appears stilted and not natural. But it is still better than most family album photos of that time … and they were probably quite pleased with it … for all that. (Oh, with that emulsion, a rich red would appear black, when printed.)


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