Extracts from memoirs and diaries, chosen by Ian Irvineby Ian Irvine / February 20, 2014 / Leave a comment
DH Lawrence, who complained that his beard looked black in photos, 1920s
In 1843, Elizabeth Barrett Browning writes to Mary Russell Mitford:
“Do you know anything about that wonderful invention of the day, called the daguerreotype? Have you seen any portraits produced by means of it? Think of a man sitting down in the sun and leaving his facsimile in all its full completion of outline and shadow, steadfast on a plate, at the end of a minute and a half! The Mesmeric disembodiment of spirits strikes one as a degree less marvellous. And several of these wonderful portraits, like engravings (only exquisite and delicate beyond the work of the engraver) have I seen lately, longing to have such a memorial of every being dear to me in the world. It is not merely the likeness which is precious in such cases—but the association, and the sense of nearness involved in the thing… the fact of the very shadow of the person lying there fixed forever! It is the very sanctification of portraits I think—and it is not at all monstrous in me to say what my brothers cry out against so vehemently— that I would rather have such a memorial of one I dearly loved, than the noblest artist’s work ever produced.”
A clergyman at the Old Vicarage in Shinfield complains to a newspaper in 1851:
“Sir,—I beg to bring to your notice the serious harm likely to come from the increasing popularity of photography… There has been an alarming increase in the popularity of this unnatural pastime. The stage has now been reached when permanent damage is likely to be inflicted not only on painting, engraving, and the arts in general, but upon industry, manners, and the home itself.
“Already, I am informed, the fascinations of the photograph album have had their effect on the thousands of children who would be better employed in pit or mill; already the reputations of Landseer, Turner, and even Martin and Westall are believed to be suffering; and I can myself vouch unhappily from my own family circle that idleness and vanity are encouraged by the constant posing for portraits, and the subsequent poring over them… This day, alas, I have been obliged to call five of my daughters before me for reproof.”
Charles Baudelaire writes in his essay, “The Salon of 1859”: