If you ever take a look at old photos, there is a huge possibility that you will come across portraits in front of hand-painted backdrops. But have you ever wondered about the history of those backdrops?
Hand-painted backdrops were popular in portrait photography studios from the 1860s until the 1920s. They were often so expensive that they were only used for special shoots. Unique and beautiful works of art in their own right, the backdrops were often made of raw cotton duct fabric and tempera paint or chalk. The two largest producers of hand-painted backdrops were Engelmann & Schneider in Dresden, Germany and L.W. Seavey in New York City. As Robert Taft writes in Photography and the American Scene: “To Seavey, in large measure, must go the credit, or the blame, for the introduction of the painted background. He rose to fame during the seventies, making a specialty of manufacturing accessories for the photographic gallery.”
As handheld cameras gained popularity, people lost interest in hand-painted backdrops, preferring to be photographed outside of studios and hand-painted backdrops fell out of fashion. Nowadays those backdrops are gaining popularity again and in the sea full of hand-painted backdrops that are being mass produced, we are very proud that we can provide very unique backdrops for every customer.
A motorcyclist with his bike, Queensland, Australia, c. 1935
A photographer and his staff, Germany, 1890
A portrait of Nina Hagerup, Norway, c. 1894
A woman dressed as Boudica or Mother England, Australia, c. 1900
Alice Manfield collection, State Library of Victoria
Baseball player King Kelly, c. 1887
English woman, c. 1882
India, c. 1876
Lucille Baldwin Brown, first black county librarian in Tallahassee, c. 1940
Stafhell & Kleingrothe photo studio, Netherlands, 1898
Written by Nemanja Grahovac