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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Backdrops to Life: Sepia Saturday

A vintage studio photograph is the subject of this week's Sepia Saturday prompt.  My  focus was, not on the person (a baseball player),  but on the backdrop.  I turned to my family collection to find a range of examples of sea, drapes, stairways, idyllic rural  scenery and dreamy views as backdrops to studio photographs. 

A  Seaside Setting, complete with a spade prop,   was created in this photograph in my Great Aunt Jennie' Danson's  collection - labelled Jessie and Bernard Pennington, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. 

Stately Stairways were often used to give the impression of a grand country garden settig. 

A lovely little curly headed  girl with her teddy. 
 Unfortunately this photograph in my great aunt's collection  was unidentified. 

Janie Riley of  Fleetwood, Lancashire, c.1916,
 a relation of my great grandmother's family 

 Stanley Wood of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, c.1916  - 
one of many such photographs taken as men set off for service in Flanders.

Confirmation photograph of my husband's great aunt - Violet Hibbert 
taken at  Frank & Hamilton, Ocean Road, South Shields, County Durham. 
Look closely and you will see the stairway on the right. 

My husband's  grandparents Matthew Iley White and Alice Armitage, 
with their daughters  Lalla, Patti,  and standing -  Ivy. c.1914
Photographer taken at Crown Buildings, 74 Ocean Road, South Shields. 
Again the stairway can just be seen leading  off the picture on the right.

Exotic Plants feature  in photographs taken in Blackpool, Lancashire , and the same plant turns up across the country in South Shields, Co. Durham.  

My cousin's father Arthur Stuart Ingram Smith, born 1907 in Blackpool,  and looking rather unhappy here, clad  in a tartan dress as was the custom for very young boys.   The tartan reflected the family's pride  in their Scottish roots,  with an ancestral trail leading back to Unst,  the most northerly island in the Shetlands.  Photographer - Arthur's  father Edward Stewart Ingram Smith. 

My husband's uncle  - Matthew Iley White (1915-1978)
Photograph taken by T. W. H. Liddle, Photographer, South Shields.  

Opulent Drapes are, rather inappropriately  the backdrop to this group of sailors.

Jack Riley of Fleetwood, Lancashire (sister of Janie above)   is identified in the centre  of this group, wearing sailor’s uniform  and a cap HMS Chester, c.1916.

Idyllic Country Scenes were the most popular backdrop  (as in  the prompt photograph below) whatever the age, occupation  or status  of the sitter.  

Jackie Threlfall, wearing the popular sailor suit.
Taken by ? Watson, 13 Wellington Terrace, Blackpool 

An unknown boy, taken at  Speed Photos,   South Shields. 

Joseph Prince Oldham (1855-1917) and his granddaughter Elsie Oldham, proudly showing off her doll, c.1911 .The Oldham family were carters and coalmen in Blackpool, Lancashire and  Elsie Oldham and my mother, Kathleen Danson, were second cousins

Beatrice Oldham  married Jack Clarke in 1919 in Blackpool, Lancashire.   

Little Arthur Smith again, c.1909
The note on the back of this photograph reads  "Arthur in his first pair  of trousers". 

Dreamy Backdrops to finish with:  

My Nana -  Mary Barbara Weston, nee Matthews. 

My husband's uncle again - Matthew Iley White - named after his father above.
Photograph taken by T. W. H. Liddle, Photographer, South Shields.  

 My cousin Stuart with his sister and how angelic they look, with their blond locks obviously inherited form their father Arthur (above) 


Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share 
their family history and memories through photographs.

Click HERE  to see what has struck other bloggers about this week''s prompt  



  1. A great take on the prompt and what a plethora of examples in your family collections you had to use! The scene with the little unknown girl standing by the outside stairway looks the most real. Too bad the photographer who photographed the sailors didn't have some sort of sea scene backdrop. I'd give you an A+ on this post!!! :)

  2. Great idea -- the backdrops! Arthur looks MUCH happier in his second shot (no dress...); the dress one, though, reminds me of a portrait I have of my grandfather...also in a dress!

  3. That's an interesting way to look at studio photographs, and you have an amazing family collection.

  4. How very cool, and I'd never have thought of this and how well you've knit together this theme on backdrops! Studio photographers that I've used usually had nature or the defuse backdrops.

  5. A unique approach to the theme. After enjoying yours, I went back through my own older studio photos and couldn't find anything interesting—they're all kind of a cloudy sky. My favorite is of your husband's grandparents and their three small daughters. They had their hands full!

  6. I love this interpretation of the theme. I confess I am the worst at thinking outside the box when I see the prompt. Your photos are beautiful.

  7. What a lovely collection, especially the photographs of children in their little chairs. When our children were small we could take them for relatively inexpensive photo sessions at the local shopping centre, where the travelling photographers would pull down various screens to create changing backdrops for their shots.

  8. A terrific idea! I expect there was a scenic backdrop trade that supplied artwork for photographer's studios. Probably associated with the theater world too. As a woodworker, I've long been fascinated by the furniture used in old photos. Some seem impractical for ordinary households and look as if they were designed for different kinds of figure poses.

  9. Thank you, all, for your kind comments on the way I interpreted this week's theme. I invariably go for the obvious, but as anything to do with baseball and bats was out if the scenario, that just left backdrops!

  10. Years ago an online friend wrote a book about the history of the backdrops used by photographers. I don't think it's in print anymore. You have some wonderful selections. I always find them fascinatin.


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