Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Smile for the Camera (14th Edition) - Wedding Belles

Smile For The Camera (14th Edition) - Wedding Belles

The word prompt for the 14th Edition of Smile For The Camera is "Wedding Belles." According to the host footnoteMaven of Shades of the Departed:
Historically, couples married in the month of June to honor Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. Others did it to time conception so births wouldn't interfere with harvest work. And brides in the 15th century chose to marry in June because it coincided with their "annual bath" - that's right - ensuring a relatively sweet-smelling honeymoon.
Well, I have to confess that despite a diligent search I've been unable to come up with a single one of my ancestors that lived within the photographic era who was married during the month of June. The records are sadly silent on whether they were accustomed to having more than one bath a year, or perhaps merely timed their ablutions according to a non-pagan calendar.

My family also appear to have been somewhat reticent about inviting the local photographer to record their nuptials. I have marriage certificates aplenty, so I know the events actually did take place, but photographic records seem to be rare.

(For those who are expecting wedding photos, and won't make do with any kind of substitute, I have previously published and written on this topic several times. Articles include the wedding of my paternal grandparents (Amateur Photo of a Wedding Group, 1926), a large wedding group in Derby by John Burton & Sons taken c. 1865, the famous and often photographed "wedding" of Mr & Mrs General Tom Thumb, and an 1850s ambrotype of a recently married couple. I also recently wrote an extensive series of articles detailing a successful investigation into the identities of subjects of a wedding portrait (A Mystery Marriage in Barton-under-Needwood).)

Image © and collection of H.A.W. Payne
Margien Adriana Schipper and her nephew Dirk Smit
Amsterdam, Netherlands, taken c. 1931-1932
Print 74 x 105 mm
Image © and collection of H.A.W. Payne

I've decided, therefore, to instead feature a couple of portaits of a family member who was never married, although if she had, I have little doubt that she would have done so in June. I have inherited a couple of her photograph albums, and therefore possess a fair number of amateur and professional portraits of her and her immediate family. Those included here, however, are from my mother's albums. The first is of my great-aunt Margien Adriana Schipper (1885-1982), known to me as Tante Gien, and her only nephew (my mother's brother) Dirk Smit (1926-1961).

Image © and collection of H.A.W. Payne
Margien Adriana Schipper and her grand-nephew
Postjeskade, Amsterdam, Netherlands, taken July-August 1963
Kodacolor Print 79 x 79 mm
Image © and collection of H.A.W. Payne

The second, taken some thirty years later, shows Tante Gien in a very similar pose, but with the next generation on her lap. I don't recall that occasion - I was, after all, only eighteen months old - but I do remember visiting her with my grandparents in 1974. I can easily conjure up an image in my mind of how kind she was - she slipped me a few guilders to augment my pocket money - although she spoke practically no English and I, sadly, no Dutch at all.

I am struck by how authentic the colours are in this photograph. The 1960s were the early years of widespread use of amateur colour photography, but Kodak seem to have got it right!


  1. Fabulous photographs; your great-aunt appears to have sort of a Mona Lisa smile in the first photo.

  2. Thank you, Greta. Yes, I thought they were nice photographs too, and the smile appears in many portraits of her. The contrast between the two portraits is also interesting. In the first, the subjects seem rather distracted; in the second, the photographer has our undivided attention!

    Regards, Brett

  3. A younger Tante Gien seems a little uncomfortable with the tiny boy placed in her care for the photograph. See how her hands don't quite hold onto him? But then when the charmer that was "you" hurried to have his picture taken with her (perhaps to get another guilder)she was relaxed and felt free to hug you close for the photographer.

    I'm sure she would have married in June if she had chosen to marry!

  4. Possibly the identity of the photographer made some difference to how at ease the subjects were. In the first, I believe the photographer may have been my Opa, Tante Gien's brother-in-law, while in the second it was my mother, Tante Gien's niece.


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