Smithsonian

Photography Another Look (Girls)

Who are these girls?

We just don't know. Merry Foresta found this picture in a Smithsonian file. It had no date or any other information.

It is an early Kodak snapshot. The date, then, is later than 1888, when the Kodak went on the market.

Smithsonian costume curator Shelly Foote thinks the clothing dates it between 1890 and 1894.

The girls are outside, but not by much. It's likely that they stepped out of the house to take the picture. The early Kodaks did not come with a flash. Indoor photography was impossible.

What does the picture tell us?

For Merry, it offers a glimpse into an informal Victorian situation. There were a hundred pictures on a roll of Kodak film. Photography, she says, became cheap enough that you could do something silly. In a very short time, people developed their own picture rhetoric.

They learned to pose themselves, in other words, just as these young women are doing in a recent snapshot.

If nothing else, the picture is proof that people in the nineteenth century, when left to their own devices, did smile once in a while!