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Period Photography



Although photography was invented in 1839, before the Victorian era, the Victorians’ embracement of this new and innovative technology greatly increased its popularity.

“In 1851 a new era in photography was introduced by Frederick Scott Archer, who introduced the Collodion process. This process was much faster than conventional methods, reducing exposure times to two or three seconds, thus opening up new horizons in photography.”

This new process was much cheaper than earlier daguerreotypes. “The collodion process required that the coating, exposure and development of the image should be done whilst the plate was still wet. Another process developed by Archer was named the Ambrotype, which was a direct opposite.”

The American Civil War as well as the mortality of the general population due to common illness brought a great demand for photographic images of deceased loved ones. A way of preserving memories. Although we today would consider this morbid, the Victorians viewed this practice of photographing the dead as a keepsake.

“The deceased was commonly represented as though they were peacefully sleeping rather than dead, although at other times the body was posed to look alive.”

Also soldiers had photographs made for family members and sweethearts. Wives and best girls sat for photos for their soldiers to take with them. And it seems, because of the novelty of preserving images, people of all ages sat for photographs, and some even posed with treasured belongings.

Even horribly disfigured soldiers sat for formal portraits. Perhaps this was considered a badge of honor. Whatever the reason, Victorians loved their photographic images.



  1. Paisley Kirkpatrick says:

    Think of the historical value these photos have given to us. Photography is an amazing invention to me and I am glad to have photos of my ancestors to see especially when I have their letters to go with them.

  2. Yes, Paisley, I think photography was one of the most important inventions of the 19th century. Before that the only images recorded were paintings and drawings. It’s no wonder everyone was clamoring to have their photos taken.

  3. Isabel Roman says:

    I agree, photography is one of the most important inventions. It’s changed the way we live and record things, and has given us the means to preserve our history.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The photos of the times are priceless and I find it fascinating when realizing most people only hoped to have one photo portrait taken in their lifetime.

  5. […] as there was with all etiquette. Rules grew stricter, which came along with the rise in popularity in photographs of the dead and hair jewlery. No doubt, the American Civil War, with its 600,000 casualties also had a direct […]

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