Wednesday, 2 March 2016

victorian studio gardens

Posting the pictures of Nathan the model in his studio garden reminded me of my books of early photography, which are full of studio gardens - a world of painted backgrounds and paper roses, occasionally swagged with a real item, if such were available, but as often as not - 100% fake.

As you often do, I feel down a rabbit-hole into the extraordinary and slightly eerie world of early studio gardens and the dapper ladies and gentlemen who inhabited them:

The Young Man in a Flowered Suit is a mystery. Is he a Wildesque dandy? Allegorical springtime? Or merely advertising curtains? Speculations continue in the comments section. The Beautiful Woman at a Prop Window has a swag of greenery on her firmly-buttoned bodice, hinting at the delights within; and there is a hint of suppressed laughter in her expression, as if she cannot help but be amused by her drooping paper vines.

One could clearly request the hammock, as these two louche young gentlemen demonstrate. Note how Dandy #2 is using the opportunity to show off his extraordinary socks.


Where the images are children, the fantastical backdrops lose their playfulness and take on an air of menace. That expression of a child waiting, surrounded by a garden on adult scale and some mysterious narrative that may or may not have your best interests in mind, speaks to the child in every adult.

The garden is the space for love, and Young Lady Swinging and Young Man with Flowers might be dreaming wistfully of each other. Certainly her smart curls and his natty hat seem a suitable match; maybe his painted flowers could fill her ornamental basket?

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