Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Photographers and costume: Natal 1880s

This portrait was taken by James Lloyd, a Durban photographer from the end of the 1850s to 1899, at his 'West End Studio'.

The carte de visite dates to the early to mid-1880s: the high-buttoned front of the jacket is a clue, as are the narrow lapels and the cut-away jacket corners. This young man’s trousers are without a front crease or turn-up and cut fairly wide in the leg, another indication of the date. He wears a hat, possibly of straw, with upturned brim and a band of patterned fabric. 

It is unusual to find formal studio portraits of African subjects - as distinct from tourist views which were popular e.g. of women in beaded costume or Zulu warriors in full rig plus shield and assegai. Most photographers took some of those and judging from advertisements there was a demand for such pictures.

 In this instance, the subject is seen as a person, an individual in his own right. He was employed by a family who lived in Durban for some years, later returning to England. They wanted a photograph of him for sentimental reasons:  a record of someone they were attached to, who had been part of their household and had looked after their young son. 

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