+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

Any one who has the courage to visit
Lenzkirch, will do well to visit the two factories I
have referred to.


THERE are probably few pairs of eyes turned
towards this page which have not been directed
before now to some nob, or moulding, or key-
hole, or door-handle in a photographic studio,
and so have remained fixed in a delirious stare
till the carte de visite was an accomplished
fact. It is commonly a very heavy blow when
one first sees the result of that operation which
we have so many of us gone through. We
explain ourselves in our different ways when we
have our first interview with our own portraits
after they come from the photographer's. If
we are of a demonstrative nature, and besides
have not been bred at the Court of St. James's,
we exclaim "Lor!" when we first see
ourselves. Some again will utter a mere unintelligible
exclamation of surprise or grief; others
will bless themselves; and truculent and hot-
livered persons will invoke upon the head of the
artist that which is not a benediction. There
remains yet a class of well-bred and
undemonstrative individuals who confine themselves to
a speechless examination of the newly-arrived
cards, merely expressing their agony by an
eloquent silence, by twisting the work of art first
this way and then that, holding it now at a
distance, and now near, and anon upside-down.

We get accustomed to the portrait after a
time, are able to face it, to see it on our
drawing-room table in a small frame, or in an
album, or even in the books of our dear friends
and acquaintances. If we are public characters
(and it is astonishing how many of us now
find that we are so), we are actually obliged at
last to get accustomed to the sight of ourselves
in the shop-windows of this great metropolis.
Our shepherd's-plaid trousers, our favourite
walking-stick, our meerschaum pipe, meet our
gaze turn where we will.

We do not all come out of the photographic
studio alike unhappy. There are those to whom
the process does justice, as well as those to
whom it does injustice; nay, there are some on
whom it confers actual benefits, and who show
to greater advantage on the carte de visite than
in their own proper persons. I have myself sat
on two occasions for one of these portraits. On
the first I was simply occupied in keeping still
and presenting a tolerably favourable view of my
features and limbs to the fatal lens; but the
result was so tame and unimposing a picture that
I determined on the next occasion to throw more
intellect into the thing, and finding a certain
richly-gilded curtain-tassel convenient to my gaze,
I gave it a look of such piercing scrutiny, and so
withered and blasted it with the energy of my
regard, that I almost wonder it did not sink
beneath the trial. That look has, I am happy
to say, been reproduced faithfully, and no one
could see the portrait without giving its original
credit for immense penetration, great energy and
strength of character, and a keen and piercing
wit. It is difficult to lay down rules of general
application, but it may be safely said that the
people who come out of the photographic struggle
the best, and who are least injured in the
engagement, are people of ordinary appearance,
from whom we do not expect much. It is
common to hear some lady who is generally
acknowledged to be pretty, urged by her friends to
sit for a carte de visite. "You really ought to
have it done," they say; "you would make
such a charming portrait." The portrait is
taken, and is, after all, not charming. On the
contrary, it is sufficiently the reverse to make
the dearest of the victim's female friends happy.

Those to whom this process does the greatest
justice are people the proportions of whose faces
are well balanced, whose features rather err on
the side of smallness than largeness, and who
are not generally considered to be beautiful. It is
possible to have symmetrical features and a well-
proportioned face and yet to fall very far short of
beauty; and it is equally possible for a countenance
to be wrong in some of its proportions, and
yet leave an impression of beauty on our minds.
But any one in this last case will be a great
sufferer in going through the photographic
process. As the two likenesses appear side by
side in the album, they will astonish all who
look at them. They thought the one was such
a much plainer person than she here appears,
and the other so much prettier.

There are many beauties of colour and
expression which cannot be rendered by the agency
of the camera. Colour of hair, colour of the
complexion generally, of the lips, the cheeks,
the eyes, all these go for nothing; and as to
expression, the most expressive countenances suffer
most invariably: a little happy touch of expression
is a phenomenon one hardly ever remembers
to have seen caught in a photographic portrait.
If the face be left to take its chanceso to
speaka heavy or mournful look is the usual
result, and if any particular expression be
attempted it is almost sure to look like a grimace;
a truth of which we constantly see illustrations
in the portraits of those engaged in the theatrical
profession, when some special expression has
been attempted. People of mediocre abilities,
as people of mediocre beauty, will come off best
in sitting for their photographs. They will
astonish us by looking so clever, as the others by
looking so pretty. Real genius and real beauty
will often astonish us the other way. It is as
difficult to give a man's outside, with all we know
of it in a portrait, as to produce a fair
representation of his mind in a biography.

There are, however, very many motives
which all work in consonance to make us
patronise this very thriving business of
photography. First of all there is the appeal to our
vanity. You yourself are the subject of your
own especial consideration and that of one or
two others for some considerable space of time.
What a delightful thing that is. Whether you
are good-looking or ugly you like that, depend
on it. Then, the portrait done, you have the