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Picturing the family
Picturing the family

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6.2.1 Studio conventions in street photography

Activity 23

Look at Images 81 and 82. Given your knowledge of conventional studio portraiture, can you see any similarities between studio and street practice?

A photograph of two women
Image 81: Photographer/Painter: Anon. Subject: Two friends photographed in the back yard of a house in Autumn Street, Horwich.
A photograph of three women
Image 82 Photographer/Painter: S. Williams. Subject: Mrs Roberts with her daughters Hannah (left) and Margaret (right).

Answer

I hope you immediately recognized the influence of studio practice in these street portraits. Expression, pose and positioning all conform to the conventions of studio portraiture. In the case of the girls in Image 81, even the props – the chair, the table, the book and the aspidistra – are arranged and deployed exactly as they would have been in the studio. In the Roberts family photograph (Image 82) a cloth has been arranged over the gate as a backdrop. Street photographers in effect recreated the studio in the back yard. Some street photographers actually carried painted backdrops similar to those used in the studio.

Does it help for the purpose of comparison to see what normally took place in the back yard? Please remember, however, that this is a most unusual photograph – the exception that proves the rule!

Photograph of women bathing a dog.
Image 83: Photographer/Painter: Anon. Subject: Bathing the dog in the back yard.