Friday, 29 February 2008

"Copies can be had" & "Portraits enlarged up to life size" (1)

One of the most important advantages of the process used in the production of cartes de visite, apart from the relative low cost, was the existence of glass plate negatives. This enabled copies to made very cheaply, and these were offered by most photographers from the early 1860s. John Clark of Matlock Bath offered this typically brief, although informative, text on the reverse of his card mount in the mid-1860s:

Image © & courtesy of John Bradley

W.W. Winter of Derby emphasized that all negatives were preserved, and he expanded the range of services on offer in the mid-1870s, to include enlargement and the finishing of photographs, presumably by retouching artists, in sepia, oil or water colours:

Image © & collection of Brett Payne

Although the services were probably fairly similar from most of the more established studios, the styles of advertisement varied somewhat. Pollard Graham of Belper & Wirksworth, for example, was brief and to the point in 1881, but soon after dispensed with this form of advertisement completely:

Image © & courtesy of Robert Silverwood

Richard Keene Junior of Burton-upon-Trent additionally offered prints using the "carbon" (presumably carbonotype) process in the 1890s:

Image © & courtesy of Samantha Smith

Frederick Barber of Matlock finished portraits in "Autotype" (I'm not sure what that was - perhas a reader can help):

Image © & courtesy of John Palmer

Photographers soon realised that those customers with greater disposable incomes could afford, and might easily be persuaded to purchase, enlargements of the photographs. While not quite as simple as ordinary copies, which were produced as simple contact prints from the glass plates, an enlargement was not difficult to make, and could command a considerably higher price. Jacob Schmidt of Belper offered enlargements "up to life size" from the mid-1880s:

Image © & courtesy of Cynthia Maddock

J.W. Price of Derby also offered life-size portraits:

Image © & courtesy of Cynthia Maddock

I've never come across such a life-size portrait, and wonder how common they were - presumably not very. Have readers information about any such life-size enlargements which have survived? I'd be interested to hear from you.

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