Braced baby

What it is:

Cabinet card measuring 4.25 x 6.5 inches.

What I know about it:

Photographer is J. L. Lent of Albion, New York.  Otherwise undated and unidentified.


I just watched a murder mystery set in Victorian times in which the corpses had, among other things, distinctive bruises on the backs of their necks.  It turned out the killer was a demented spiritualist trying to photograph the souls departing the bodies, and the bruises were from a head clamp.  A head clamp was an apparatus commonly used in the 1800s by photographers (normal, legitimate ones, not just the homicidal kind) to keep the sitter in place during the prolonged exposure times required by the photographic technology of the day.  (Under normal circumstances, of course, the clamps wouldn’t produce that tell-tale bruising.  The fictional victims in this movie were struggling against their restraints.)  That got me to thinking about such photos, and how sometimes the sitter truly looks clamped into place.  I previously posted a photo that appears to show the bottoms of head clamp stands on the floor behind the subjects, though only the seated girl appears to be using one.  And when I think of people clamped into place, I always think of the photo I’m posting today, even though there are no visible restraints.  With the back of the chair in the way, a standard head clamp is obviously not being used.  But I’ve read that there were sometimes clamps for the torso, and that small children were sometimes simply tied in place.  Given the stiff arms and the rigid, upright posture, perhaps something like that is happening here?  Whatever the case, this child (and I’ll admit I’m not sure if it’s a boy or a girl) is adorable.  And while it’s reasonable to assume that this child’s soul has, by now, left its body, I think we can also rest assured that our sitter at the very least survived this photo session.

3 comments on “Braced baby”

  1. Reblogged this on Hello100blog.

  2. What was the movie called? Or was it one of those PBS mysteries?

    • Hi Jenn! It was a British mystery series from about ten years ago called “Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes”. (I got it on DVD from the library.) It’s a fictional series, based on the non-fiction premise that one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mentors in the medical profession was a Dr. Joseph Bell, who was said to have the skills of observation and deduction that Doyle later used in Sherlock Holmes. This series shows Doyle and Bell solving murders together. The episode here was called “The Photographer’s Chair”. I’m not loving the series as much as I had hoped, but it’s an interesting premise, and it’s good enough that I’ll finish watching it. There were only a handful of episodes made, and Ian Richardson is wonderful as Bell.

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