Magic lantern slides of Children

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We’ve become very wary of photographing children. Parents are worried that if someone takes a photograph in a park or on a beach that includes their child, the image might be used in some way that could be harmful. I suspect the chances of that happening are infinitesimally small but, if something does happen to your child, you would, of course, be very upset. However, I’m a parent and grandparent and I might be very naïve but I don’t actually understand what these risks are!

Clearly, phone cameras, social media, the internet and the litigious society that we live in have changed photography forever. It seems that our perceived right to privacy has trumped (am I allowed to use that word now?) the innocent pleasure of taking a photo in a public space. I think it’s a real shame that western society has become so risk averse.

Which brings me to today’s subject ….. photographing children one hundred years ago.

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Portrait photography has been around since the invention of the camera in the 1830s. It was the first commercial application of the new art form and made many of its early practitioners very wealthy. It is natural for parents to want to capture their child’s image but, in the Victorian era, many generic lantern slides were produced of children because there was a market for them. Some are unacceptable these days, such as kids having a bath or swimming naked in the local river but others were and still are stunning images.

So, at the risk of someone using these photos inappropriately and given that the children in them are anonymous and no longer with us (that’s my disclaimer ….. not that I’m risk averse!), I thought I would share these lantern slides from my archive. The first is a group of Boy Scouts (probably 1920s) practising First Aid, the second a Victorian, hand tinted, studio portrait and the last is a boy playing ’stick and hoop’. The photographer has caught the split second when he had both feet off the ground!

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