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Picturing the family
Picturing the family

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4.12 Key concepts

We can conclude that the ideas relating to idealization, positive characterization and sexual stereotyping had a significant influence on the treatment of all 4 components of the portrait: expression, pose, background accessories and lighting.

Victorian family photographs (like most other primary sources) are therefore selective, partial and biased. Early photographers regarded it as part of their proper function to emphasize those aspects that were considered at the time to be good and conceal those regarded as bad. It was no part of their duty to uncover or present the ‘real picture’.

You can sometimes learn more of the ‘real’ story behind the image when you interview relatives who appear in the photographs. Photographs can play a useful role in oral history interviews by

sparking recollection. But tread carefully – some photographs may be invested with great emotional significance for their owners.