Formal family portrait

The spread of formal photo studio sittings into middle-class families could make for an interesting study. The earliest portraits, of course, were individuals who had to hold still for the image to set. Getting two or more people to cooperate simultaneously could present a challenge, though I do have the photo of Amos and Mary Magdalene McSherry in front of their store and a later one of their daughter Alice and a group of sledding party friends, both taken a generation before this one.

Here, my dad is a serious looking teenager with his parents and sisters.

The dramatic lighting comes from both sides, and all eyeballs except little T.J.’s are riveted somewhere over the photographer’s right shoulder.

I am bothered by the profusion of shadows behind them, something I thought the photographer would have tried hiding. The technical excellence of this large-format camera work, though, is impressive.

Considering this comes from the late ’30s, I’m left with the impression that the hard times of the Great Depression are slipping behind them and that Grandpa’s plumbing business has taken root.

What’s your impression?



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