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 Sepia photograph of unknown group at Emmanual College Cambridge



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Dating Old Photographs

I cannot do better here than to recommend to you the work of Robert Pols. His "Dating Old Photographs" published by The Federation of Family History Societies is the standard work on the subject, and the dating tables therein are absolutely invaluable. There is no point in repeating this information in detail here.

Areas to consider when trying to date a photograph are:

Labeling and manuscript notes

An obvious starting point is any printed information on the face or rear of the photograph or mount, identifying the photographer or any manuscript notes giving the date, location, or identification of places or people. This site should help if you are trying to date from the information about a Cambridgeshire photographer printed on the photograph or its mount.

But, names printed on photographic mounts may not always relate to the photographer or publisher of the image. The stereo card below of the Gate of Honour at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge bears the name R Sollitt printed across the right hand side of the face of the card. Nothing has been found of this person in census returns etc. An enquiry of the seller of the stereo card produced the information that he had once had several of these cards bearing this name, printed in the same way, but he believed the printed name to be the name of the owner of the collection, as other examples also showed the names of the photographers and publishers who produced them.

stereo card of Gonville and Caius College

Detail of name printed on the above stereo card

The Medium:

What about the photograph itself, materials or processes used, its size, appearance, style, how the photograph is mounted

The image

Is this studio or outdoor work? Are there clues to dating from the style and composition of the image? Are there any Photographer's props to help date or identify. What about the clothing, hair styles, general appearance of any people in the image, or other tell-tale signs of the period - transport, street furniture, signage, business names? What about the occasion depicted?



www.FadingImages.uk is a non-commercial web site for local and family historians, listing photographers in Cambridgeshire 1840-2000
This page was last modified: 30 March 2016, 09:25

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