Home / Photographers / Photo Theatricalism in the Gilded Age_david [8]

© David S. Shields

Photo Theatricalism in the Gilded Age    Oct 28, '10 5:57 AM
by David for group historicalziegfeld #476

Photographers: Gulick, Landy, OS Wheeler, Sarony, Tabor Prang Art, Ullman Mfg Co

Professional photographers in addition to celebrity portraits copyrighted images that could best be described as genre scenes--idealized representations of culturally resonant figures and situations. In the early 19th century lithographers dominated the market for these sorts of pictures. Napoleon Sarony, the first self-avowed theatrical photographer in the United States, began his career as a lithographer.

What interests me about the photographic genre scenes is that they bear a singularly close relationship to stage pictures of the last quarter of the 19th century. All of the images below were produced in very large formats--larger than 11x14 inches. All possess a thorough-designed and thorough-composed quality that we now reckon 'staginess.' All possess as well a dramatic simplicity and clarity. There are never too many characters or eye-catching objects calling to be viewed.

These were the characteristics of most genres of stage production in that period, except the extravaganza (proto-musicals such as The Black Crook or Sinbad). Since the theatrical production still did not come into general use until the 1890s, and because the earliest such images had, because of the flash-light illumination, rather stark contrasts in tone, the genre pictures suggest more the allure of the stage in the Gilded Age. David S Shields

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  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    studiolymar wrote on Oct 28, '10
    Wow, very nice compo's, thanks for sharing
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