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Picturing the family
Picturing the family

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5.4 Special occasions

Helene Witte in her gown for a fancy dress ball
Image 43 Photographer/Painter: Warwick Brookes, Manchester. Subject: Helene Witte in her gown for a fancy dress ball.

Special occasions could include events of family, local or national significance. Those wealthy enough to attend important balls and dances would often visit the studio and change into their ball gown or suit for the portrait. Local events could include amateur dramatics when sitters would attend the studio to be photographed in costume. Whit week processions in northern towns required each child to have a new outfit. So children would be taken to the studio before the parade and would probably be photographed again later in the day as part of a group in the procession. National events such as coronations and royal anniversaries often provoked an appearance in front of the camera.

Similarly it was customary for people to visit the photographer whenever they went on holiday, whether on visits to friends or relatives, or on a day-trip to the seaside. Even those who stayed at home visited the wakes and fairs which were sure to include numbers of photographers ready to take advantage of the free-spending mood engendered by the holiday feeling.