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Picturing the family
Picturing the family

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6.2.2 Informational content

Obviously for the purpose of historical record, portraits taken in the context of the family home can be more informative than those taken inside the studio with its make-believe settings.

Activity 24

Compare the children in Images 84 and 85. What can we say about their different circumstances, using evidence from the photographs?

A photograph of three children
Image 84: Photographer/Painter: Anon. Subject: Details unknown.
A photograph of three children
Image 85: Photographer/Painter: Anon. Subject: Wilfred, Walter and Harry Ramsden outside the family home in Boardman's Buildings, near Moss Lane, Pendlebury, c.1905. Their father was a miner at Agecroft Colliery.


Perhaps the most obvious difference lies in the style and appearance of their homes. The children in Image 84 lived in a house with bay windows, an elegant entrance porch and a front garden. The Ramsden brothers (Image 85) lived in the poorest class of terraced house which boasted neither bay window nor front garden. Here the front doors opened directly on to the street.

The other major difference is in their clothing. School uniform and school caps advertise the affluent. The less affluent children wear clogs. Clogs were worn by working-class women and children on weekdays. The respectable poor would attempt to provide boots for their children to wear on Sundays. Working people normally visited the photographer's studio wearing their Sunday best outfits, so it is unusual to find clogs featured in studio portraits. The oldest boy, who has been breeched, also wears a flat hat (Image 85). Flat hat and clogs, symbols of the northern working-class male!

Did you also notice that the child in the middle has rickets, a disease caused by poor diet and vitamin deficiency?