Sometimes the back of a photo can be as thrilling as the front...
I don't know about you, but I would want to be photographed by this studio:
"Photographers to Her Majesty the Queen by Special Royal Warrant and Their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales. The Largest Photographers in the World." And it says that they are miniature portrait painters to boot!
According to a collectibles site, "Andrew Taylor and George Taylor created a chain of studios in about 70 towns and Cities throughout Britain." They were granted a Royal Warrant by Queen Victoria in 1886. (Once again, I've done very little research on this. I've got a long list of proper research to do one of these days...For just a little more information see here)
I was exuberant when I found this bit of English memorabilia in Northwood, New Hampshire. In this photo I see the Victoria's influence. Four little girls posing for eternity on lovely furniture in their lovely dress up best. The charm feeds my long held Anglophile sensibilities.
Across the Atlantic, around the same time, two young children posed for the photographers Kettner and Mader of Schnectady, New York. Not photographers to the queen, the portraitists still posed their subjects in an elegant setting. The boy holds a stick, reminding me of an English riding crop. (Or perhaps it is a riding crop added to heighten the effect?) The pair look as if they are ready to partake in proper British society from their fancy collars down to their booted toes.
It is thanks to these photographers that one could perform more research from here if one chose to do so. Though the children are unidentified, I could hope that the photographers files exist in a repository somewhere and that perhaps from there I could determine who these children are. If the files no longer exist, at least I could research the photographers at the Schnectady library and the local historical society. I could do a similar search for the image from overseas. Such research could help me find clues.
On the other hand, I have these last two lovely Victorian images. There is absolutely nothing on the back. In fact, both appear to be ripped from an album with pieces of paper and signs of tape hanging off the backs. I could contact the antique dealer to ask where he got these to get a clue about the identity of these people. But my antique friends tell me that dealers may not even want to tell me information about provenance for fear that I may get access to their "sources" and snatch all the good stuff up for myself. Dressed to the nines with images recorded for posterity, the identity of these individuals has been lost.
There is a moral to this post. Label your images. Keep items from one source together. (i.e. value albums as a whole and do not pull out images.) I am learning that what one values in antiques often runs counter to what we value in archives. It can be easier to make a buck from a single image than to wait for the right person to come along to buy a whole album. I can't say that I blame the antique field. It's just a shame. Perhaps there is a way we can help others recognize how much more "valuable" things are when they are identified and kept intact. Is there a way to put a price on preserved memories?