A Study in Black and White

BlackWhiteThis four generation portrait has a fascinating color story, and I suspect that the three women thought carefully about what they were wearing for the photograph.  The young girl is in white, the color of innocence. Her mother, perhaps in her mid twenties, wears what looks like an all black dress, although the somber effect is lightened by the transparent sleeves and neckline. The little girl’s grandmother wears a deep black dress, broken up with a white collar. Older women were often advised to wear white collars and/or scarves in order bring light to their faces. The great grandmother on the right wears black and a big lace collar, a common detail on the clothes of older women.

Although this beautifully composed photo is undated, I’m guessing that it comes from the 1910s. I found it an antique store in Selma, North Carolina on a recent trip to see family and friends.  Lizzie Bramlett recommended a trip to the town, which is largely made up of antique stores.  It was well worth a visit.

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4 Responses to A Study in Black and White

  1. That’s a lovely portrait, especially seeing the family resemblance and the smile on the child and the mother.
    Also, I was lamenting with friend in her 50s about the dearth of “old ladies” in American society these days. They used to have a very distinct and sweet place in our culture. I have (step) grandchildren, and am trying very hard to fill that role with them, knowing that they don’t care if I have wrinkles or not.

  2. Christina says:

    The child could be a boy. This smock-like dress was common for boys c1910. Sometimes you see a distinguishing necklace, pendant or bracelet to distinguish the sexes but I can’t make out these jewellery items in this photo.

  3. I’m glad I was able to steer you into the past of this lovely photo.

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