Early Garden Portraits

Discover how developments in photographic processes in the 1870s led to a new genre of portrait photography

Cabinet Card of the Ireland Family in their Garden (1897) by MarshallGarden Museum

Invented by Richard Leach Maddox in 1871 and improved by Charles Harper Bennett in 1878, the gelatin sliver process was more light sensitive than previous photographic methods, needing only a fraction of a second in exposure time.

Family in a Back Garden (1905) by UnknownGarden Museum

The increase in speed at which photographs could be taken, allowed for the development of handheld cameras such as the first Kodak camera in 1888. The simplicity and relatively low cost of handheld cameras enabled amateurs as well as professionals to take portraits.

Photograph of Six gardeners (c.1910) by UnknownGarden Museum

Photograph: Gardeners at Nursery (c.1907) by UnknownGarden Museum

No longer confined to a professional photographic studio, professional photographers and amateur alike took to the outdoors and gardens became a popular setting for formal portraits.

Photograph of Men and Boy in Vegetable Field (c.1918) by UnknownGarden Museum

Anne Campbell Watering at Home in Barnhill (1897) by Archibald CampbellGarden Museum

Whilst many images illustrate sitters in a formal manner, typical of the time, informally posed shots of people at work slowly started to appear as the shorter exposure time allowed for more versatile poses.

Photograph of Lady in Country House Conservatory (c.1900) by UnknownGarden Museum

Actress Marie Studholme with Ransomes Lawnmower (1905) by UnknownGarden Museum

Photograph of Man by Summerhouse (c.1910) by UnknownGarden Museum

Photograph of Couple in Garden (c.1990) by E. Cole KeighleyGarden Museum

The reduced cost of hand held cameras meant that portrait photography was no longer reserved for the rich and ever wider circles of society could afford to have portraits of themselves made in their own gardens.

Photograph of Backgarden in Cobham (c.1910) by UnknownGarden Museum

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