The Johnsons on the porch

What it is:

Photo (3.75 x 4.75 inches) mounted on a cardboard backing/frame (5.5 x 6.5 inches)


What I know about it:

Hattie + Brayton Johnson written on the back in pencil.



I find it interesting that they are striking a rather formal, studio-style pose (complete with furniture) in an informal, non-studio setting.  It makes me wonder to what extent we do that today, whether consciously or not.  The rather unfinished (to my eyes) appearance of the porch makes me think it might be a young couple documenting their new home, assuming it is their home, and assuming they are a couple (as opposed to, say, siblings).

5 comments on “The Johnsons on the porch”

  1. I wonder what the convention is, or was, of who gets to sit in the chair (in a photograph of a female-male couple). Have you found that in most photographs, men sit in a chair, while women stand behind them? I’m curious, because I recall seeing a studio portrait of my grandparents in which my grandfather stands behind my seated grandmother.

    In this photo of the Johnsons, the woman seems to fade into the background as her husband sits comfortably with his legs spread out.

    • I wondered the same thing. Like you, there’s a picture of my grandparents with my grandmother in the chair. I think in the latter part of the century it was a courtesy, like holding the door for a lady or pulling out her chair for her to sit. Whereas there’s a lot of photos from around the early century, like the one here, where the man is sitting, like the ruler, and the woman is standing, like a servant. I’ll try to post more.

  2. Perhaps the reason for vintage pictures where formal clothes and indoor furniture are positioned in an informal outdoor setting is ambient light. Flash systems, when available, were quite primitive.

  3. Thank you for answering my question. It makes sense that gentlemanly manners made their way into studio photos in the latter part of the century. You’re right about the woman looking like a servant. Although the man is handsome, the smugness of his smile, while displaying his authority in the pose, is off-putting.

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