Monday, January 23, 2012

Mystery Monday - Can You Help Date This Photo?

**This is one of a handful of photos found in an album among the possessions of Clyde Arthur BRANE (1881-1972), grandson of Daniel and Mariah Anderson BRANE.  The name on the outside of the album reads Mariah Anderson BRANE.


  1. Lisa-
    He looks like he was photographed reluctantly or because someone else wished for it. It looks like it was hurried or just when the opportunity presented itself rather than the planned look of more formal portraits. My impression is Civil War or possibly later but from the West. The lack of a backdrop scene is very stark. Could it have been done by a traveling photographer?


  2. This may sound gruesome but I wonder if he is actually deceased. I've tried enlarging the photo to get a better look at his eyes but even enlarged they appear VERY strange. Also notice the stand directly behind him? They used to take photos of deceased children by propping them up with such a stand. He looks like he is leaning to the left and maybe the chair is helping to hold him upright. I don't know.....just such a strange photo......

    1. Wow! It does look post mortem and during the wild wild west days in the 1800's. I saw those eyes to and they are absolutely closed shut.

  3. Lisa, I had a full paragraph written about why I didn't think you were correct about the photo being post mortem; but now I talked myself out of my opinion!

    I Googled "post mortem photography" and found an interesting blog showing PM Photography Stands. I think you are correct

  4. The website mentioned by Moe has a posting by "Boatswain" in October 2009 that states specifically that there is a lot of MISunderstanding about posing stands. They were used because of the long exposure time back in those days, not specifically for holding up dead people (as the post on the website mentions, dead bodies are not easily held up and posed like mannequins). The post-er goes on to say that Ebay has many "so-called" standing post mortems wherein buyers are blindly believing the "knowledgeable" sellers and should be warned.

    As for dating the photo, it appears to be a carte-de-visite from the 1860s. It's hard to tell without more details of the actual photo such as size and thickness of the card. Darrah's book on carte-de-visites indicates that a plain background usually dates from 1860-1868 rarely later and that a standing, full-length with plain background is from 1860-1870 and uncommon.

  5. Moe and Dawn: Thank you for that information. I think his eyes are what are bothering me the most.....I don't have the actual photo, just a copy from a photo cd so I can't tell more about the original.

    I was thinking the 1870 time frame so 1860-1870 fits. I do have a post mortem photo of my grandfathers sister but she is a baby and I think that was much more common than a grown man.

    I need to spend more time exploring that website!

    Thanks again!