For Your Eyes Only
Not to Be Sold: Privacy at Notman’s Studio or Controlling One’s Image in the 19th Century (Part 3 of 6).
Two portraits of male sitters from 1884 suggest that a range of strategies was available to those who wished to limit images for private use. Mr. Downie presented himself as quite the Victorian dandy at Notman’s studio. The Picture Book includes a frontal and profile view of Downie in full Highland dress and a truly spectacular moustache, twirled at the ends. Oddly, the negative of the profile image was purchased, presumably by Downie himself, meaning no further prints could be purchased for this image.
Restriction: Neg Sold
SELLING THE NEGATIVE
While there are other examples in Notman’s records of negatives being sold, it was a decidedly rare occurrence. Negatives of this era were made of glass, so transporting and storing them was always a risky endeavour, and they required equipment, chemicals and know-how to make any prints. More often, negatives were purchased to be destroyed or simply to prevent any further prints from being made.
|You missed the beginning of this series?
Here is the first article Welcome to the Studio
What might have inspired Downie or whoever commissioned his portrait to pay the extra expense for the negative, while placing no restrictions on the print sales of its partner image? Perhaps it was driven by Downie’s desire to have one image for private contemplation or for his beloved, an image that could not also circulate in his family albums or in the collections of his friends and military brethren.
In comparison to the theatrical pose and elaborate regalia of Mr. Downie’s image, the oval headshot of a bearded, balding older gentleman is rather staid. The sitter wears an overcoat with a white collar and silk cravat underneath. A sash crosses from one shoulder across his chest.
Restriction: Not to be Sold without Mrs. Strothers permission
This little portrait may be less visually arresting than Downie’s, but it clearly held significant meaning for Mrs. Strothers. She brought the image to Notman’s to order a reproduction and left instructions that no other copies were to be made without her permission.
If the Notman staff’s use of underlining is any indication, her instructions were particularly forceful. The photograph and accompanying instructions point to both an intense desire for a private photograph and the impossibility of keeping photographs completely private.
After all, Mrs. Strothers’ order reminds us that anyone with a copy of a photograph could have multiple copies made, and that having a copy made by Notman’s studio necessarily meant moving the photograph through many sets of hands, generating multiple copies, and a record of the transaction. Producing photographic copies was such an important part of commercial studio business that most referenced it in their advertisements.
The series Not to Be Sold: Privacy at Notman’s Studio is supported in part by funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.