Monday, 10 February 2014

Reading photographs

The latest blog post from Walter Cook at the advent of his retirement from The National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga O Aotearoa is a fascinating read. He divulges the 'tricks of the trade' used to date photographs.

I was so interested in this idea, that I decided to test out his 'taxonomy of fashion', which is based on women's fashion and hairstyle trends of the day. I used these dated headings as a framework to search for complementary photos in the Sir George Grey Special Collections, using the Auckland Libraries Heritage Images database. You can see from what I found below, that it was quite a success! In a few cases where we don't know the exact date the photograph was taken, the taxonomy can be used as another tool in helping us to pin this down the date to a narrower time period.

So enjoy and thanks to the National Library for the inspiration and what turned out to be a very fun exercise!

The full crinoline, 1856 to 1865. Characterised by a very full skirt with a tight fitting upper body garment:

Ref: 4-3283, William Swainson and Mrs Rook, 1862, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Ref: 589-169, described as a Māori man and woman but this is probably an incorrect description, c. 1860-1879, Sir George Grey Special Collections

The advent of the bustle, 1869 to 1877. Characterised by bustles, 'over skirt's and elaborately curled and piled up hair:

Ref: 7-A9831, Jane Mander's parents, c. 1870-1879, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Ref: 589-14, Jane Mander, c. 1870-1879, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Ref: 589-215, unidentified Māori woman, 1870s, Sir George Grey Special Collections

The corseted bodice, 1878 to 1885. Characterised by a tight upper garment with tight sleeves and hair that was parted in the middle and pulled back tightly:

Ref: 849-20, unidentified portrait of a young Māori woman, c. 1880s, Sir George Grey Special Collections

The return of the bustle, 1885 to 1889. Characterised by a smaller bustle, tightly fitting upper garments, hats and frizzed hair:

Ref: 4-3076, teachers and headmaster from Devonport School, 1889, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Ref: 4-3075, teachers and headmaster from Devonport School, 1889, Sir George Grey Special Collections

The featured sleeve, 1890 to 1899. Characterised by puffy sleeves and small boater like hats:

Ref: 1142-D133, unidentified woman, no date, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Ref: 80-BIN182, showing a group of people at a picnic, late 1890s, Sir George Grey Special Collections

The new century, 1900 to 1914. Characterised by large hats, simpler dress outlines and white blouses & skirts combos:

Ref: 31-55873, portrait of Mrs Hooker, 1909, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Ref: 31-55710, portrait of Miss Connelly, 1909, Sir George Grey Special Collections

Women’s dress, 1913-1916/1920s. Characterised by white blouses & skirts combos and tailored suits.

Ref: 1054-593X, Reynolds family group, 1917, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Ref: 31-A1809, Private Ashby and a woman, 1916, Sir George Grey Special Collections

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