Three couples, all seated

Click here to see them larger.

Other posts have looked at the various configurations in which couples are posed, typically with one person seated or with both standing. So when I got a set of images that were sold to me together, I was struck by three in a row that showed all the couples seated. I’m no expert, but they felt unusual. They even looked, I don’t know, sort of wrong somehow. That’s ridiculous, of course, since there’s nothing wrong with them. It just shows you how accustomed I’ve gotten seeing couples posed with at least one person standing. The argument could be made that varied poses provide visual interest, though I’m not convinced that the pictures here are uninteresting. One reason a woman might be standing would be to show off her dress, but all three of these dresses seem to be shown to advantage. Another reason for varied poses would be to imply a certain dynamic in the relationship. But here, for all the stiffness, there appears to be a sense of the relationships, particularly in the physical closeness of the two couples on the left. (Speaking of stiffness, it looks like you can see the feet of a posing stand being used on the man on the far right, implying that there’s one behind her, too.) And speaking of relationship dynamics, the face of the woman in the middle looks like she means business! By the way, these pictures are CDVs that are unidentified, but the two on the right are both from the little town of Mendota, Illinois. The photographer of the middle one is W. Blakeslee, and the photographer on the right is J. L. Gurrad. Other samples of both’s work can be found online.

9 comments on “Three couples, all seated”

  1. They are certainly a grim lot. I’d not be surprised if one of them is a memento mori.

  2. I wonder if the couples in the middle and on the right are sitting on a special posing chair for two people, with a single armrest in the center. If that’s true, then I can’t figure out why the woman on the right is higher than her husband. She’s either sitting on a cushion, or the chair was built with seats at different levels, which might be useful for posing with children. Or she’s sitting on a separate chair altogether, but if that’s the case, then why pick one that puts her up higher than her husband? Gurrad may have been operating in a temporary studio, with limited furniture options. The cloth backdrop suggests a temporary space as well.

    • Or perhaps the woman on the right WAS taller than the man.

      • Yes, that possibility crossed my mind, too.

      • I thought about that, but if you enlarge the image, and then look at where the man’s legs and hips are, and then try to imagine her hips at the same level, her torso would be unusually long. Of course, we can’t see her legs, so we don’t know her full proportions.

        I think the explanation must be that she’s elevated to allow her dress to hang without bunching up.

      • I think you’re right that she’s probably seated higher. I don’t know if that was in an effort to make her look taller, or if the photographer just didn’t have matching chairs.

    • I was guessing they were in separate chairs, but I could easily be wrong. If there’s a downside in this case to those beautiful, voluminous dresses, it’s that they hide the furniture.

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