If I Had A Little Photograph Of You…

If I Had A Little Photograph Of You…

And suppose it was the only photograph I had – of you or anyone else.

The first photographs were such marvels that they set the civilised world – France, Germany, the United States – ablaze with wonder and interest. Even in backwater Britain, in the wilds of London, people clamoured to take pictures, to have their portrait taken, to possess images. And for some of them there could only be one image – the cost of the thing was far too dear to have more.

The might have a daguerreotype in a union case or an albumin print in a paper slip – or just a tintype button. The face in it might be bleached out, or dim, or reversed. It might be blurred and it would almost certainly be serious, if not sombre. And it was very important to the person in it and the people who knew them. It was proof they existed for some period of time.

The saddest portraits were those of people who had ceased to exist – young or old. Funereal and post mortem images being much more common then than now.

But this brings us to today’s question. You – photographer – reading this column. What ONE image would you have of yourself, if one was all you ever could have?  You get to choose it as far as medium, type, style, lighting, pose and expression. You possess it all your life, and then your heirs have it. What will it be?

Are you an Imperial print? 24 inches by 36 inches of carefully posed sepia magnificence? Are you grander? Are you 6 feet by 3 feet of a C-type colour print lit by museum experts? Are you a laser projection on the side of a wheat silo? Why are you so big?

Or are you smaller – more intimate? A postcard print. A cameo picture in a silver frame? A tiny image in a locket? Why are you so small?

I have not yet decided what picture I am – though I am favouring a Woodburytype cabinet portrait in the style of Sarony at present. I cannot make up my mind whether to be pictured as a writer in a philosopher’s study or at a workbench tinkering with something. Both are me, but I can only have one picture.

A thought for camera club planners: Set your members the task of making their one portrait – give them utter freedom as to what it will be, and then have an evening’s exhibition. You’ll see far further into the club member’s souls than any landscape or wildflower competition will ever show. Don’t be surprised if some people are too frightened or bewildered to know or show themselves.

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