When did family portraits become popular?

The early 1900s saw a significant increase, with a faster pace. Of course, family photos were not always so consistent. For a time, family photos did not even exist. Before the invention of photography, family portraits were painted luxuries for the wealthy.

However, as photography became accessible, the family photo became more and more common, until it became a practice of normal domestic life. Something ordinary and without any hidden meaning, subtext or importance whatsoever. In 1850, Louis-Desire Blanquart Evrard improved on Talbot's salt prints by introducing albuminated paper. Photographers coated a thin sheet of paper with egg white, which kept the light-sensitive silver salt on the surface of the paper, preventing the image from fading.

Once dry, albumen prints were used in the same way as salted paper and the image was formed by the darkening properties of the sun on the chemicals. Most surviving photographs from the 19th century are made on albumen paper. Families who could only afford a couple of photos would place them in an album, to which other family members would add their own. In this series, Jayne Shrimpton, a dress historian, portrait specialist and internationally recognised photodetective (pictured below), dates and analyses different types of photographs and helps you add context to your old family photos.

For example, recent immigrants dressed in their best clothes and sent photos to their families in the old country to show that they were doing well, even if they were not. Portrait photography is 170 years old and seven, even eight, generations of the family may have been portrayed in photographs. Portrait postcards could be sent by post, like other postcards, but often the photograph was never intended for that purpose, but was kept for the image. The man's beard appears to be the same as the actual portrait of my great-great-grandfather as an old man.

The four thematic sections of the exhibition - "American Characters, "Spiritual Frontier, "Inhabited America" and "Imagination in Action" - show the evolution of photography as an art form in the United States, from a basic tool for family portraiture to a medium of abstract expression. As photographs are passed down through generations of families, the stories of the people in the images are sometimes fragmented or lost. However, in the early 1860s, my great-great-grandmother, Catherine Gavin, somehow scraped together a week's wages to have a wedding portrait taken.

Roger Deonarian
Roger Deonarian

Evil analyst. General bacon scholar. . Total zombie fan. Friendly food advocate. Evil pop culture enthusiast.

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