Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Picturing the family
Picturing the family

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

5.5.3 Birthdays

Photograph of a woman with a child
Image 49 Photographer/Painter: Warwick Brookes, Manchester. Subject: Portrait of Max Witte.
A photograph of a child
Image 50 Photographer/Painter: Warwick Brookes, Manchester. Subject: Portrait of Max Witte.
A photograph of a child
Image 51 Photographer/Painter: Warwick Brookes, Manchester. Subject: Portrait of Max Witte.
A photograph of a child
Image 52 Photographer/Painter: Warwick Brookes, Manchester. Subject: Portrait of Max Witte.

Photographers encouraged mothers to bring their children to be photographed each year around the date of their birthday as this was seen as the best way of keeping a record of their progress and development. Images 49–52 are photographs of Max Witte whose mother took him on regular visits to the superior studio of the Manchester photographer Warwick Brookes. Max's father was a German emigré and highly successful shipping merchant. The family lived in Bowdon in Cheshire.

Some photographers actually issued birthday albums to encourage annual visits. The album itself is sometimes featured as an accessory in later portraits. The society photographer Richard Speaight made particular reference in his autobiography to the mother of Myrtle Farquharson, who brought her child to his studio 2 or 3 times a year – thereby implying that such behaviour was the exception rather than the rule.

In low-income families, of course, the state of the family finances would have determined the frequency of visits to the photographer.