Friday, 12 June 2015

A Really Good Advert

19th Century Studio Prints

When the first studio photographic portraits appeared around the 1850s, the cards onto which the photographs were pasted were as often as not lightweight and plain. A very few had the name of the studio inscribed on them but little else in the way of embellishment.

Artwork & Advertising

Illustrations suggesting the rise of photography as an art form
However, move on a decade or two and the cards had become almost more interesting than the photos themselves. The trend for over-decoration that characterised high Victoriana was also evident, in miniature, on the reverse of cartes de visite portraits. Some typical themes were flowers, exotic locations and winged beings, such as cherubs or fairy folk. Others displayed illustrations of cameras, often with an accompanying artist’s palette, signifying photography as an art form (see below). Coats of arms and crests were also utilised, often suggesting Royal patronage, including that of Queen Victoria herself. However, a court case in 1884 involving the nationwide firm of A and G Taylor indicated that claims of patronage by distinguished people were frequently implied rather than actual. This firm was hauled over the coals for using the royal arms without ‘the consent of the queen’.

Exhibition Medals

Walter William Winter won many medals for his work
W W Winter steered well clear of making false claims; the studio's track record did the talking. Winner of many medals from photographic exhibitions both in the British Isles and indeed worldwide, Winter only needed to cover the bacs of his photographic portraits with displays of these awards to show his photographic prowess.

In the attached images can be seen medals won from Bedford to Berlin and Calcutta to Chicago. Winter’s customers could not help but be impressed by the success of this Derby firm on the world stage of photographic endeavour.
Only one of the ‘backs’ bears a written date, that of 1897, but both show medals gained from the 1880s through to the 1890s. Some of these same medals can still be seen to this day, displayed in a glass-fronted ‘cabinet’ at Winter’s premises. These medals act as a fitting reminder of how successful the studio became and continued to be, a really good advert indeed.

Exotic locations were often featured on the rear of studio prints

Chris Hibbert

Winter's Heritage Volunteer Team