A silver print, ca 1890-1900, showing a family
somewhere in the American southwest,
"getting back to Nature", Victorian-style-
I loved this photo the second I saw it, with its formally dressed, starched-collar family perched (seemingly) comfortably atop a boulder in a rugged river canyon. Anyone who has ever hiked in the canyons of Utah or Arizona will appreciate the difficulties involved in traveling along a rock-strewn river bank in patent-leather shoes, not to mention dressing in dark, volumous clothes, as these good people were, with the harsh sun beating down on you. We've come a long way in terms of dressing comfortably for such activities in the past seventy-five years or so. Of course, these days we do have to change before dining at the lodge...
The photo shows some interesting details- a high white collar, cross and long gold chain worn by the mother, stiff collar and bowtie on the father, and short gold choker with what appears to be a cross, along with an enormous hair ribbon, worn by the daughter-
The father's shiny black dress shoes and the dainty bow-topped shoes the daughter is wearing were simply not made for climbing across wet rocks-
The father's umbrella and multiple gold rings, and the daughter's gold bracelet are nice touches in this wonderful picture. Obviously Victorian-era hikers were made of sturdier stuff than we are today... but maybe not. A few years ago Amy and I were visiting Bryce Canyon and we went on an afternoon hike along one of the longer trails. We'd been hiking in the back country of southern Utah the week before, and so we automatically put on our big hiking boots, and carried our backpacks with snacks and plenty of water. You're unlikely to get into too much trouble in Bryce, but hey, why take chances? Toward the end of the hike, on the way up, out of the canyon, we passed a group of French women tourists on their way down. They were all immaculately dressed and coifed, and many were wearing fashionable black pumps. Chatting happily with each other and evidently having a grand time, they could just as easily have been walking down 5th Avenue in New York. As we trudged by them in our boots and backpacks, we felt terribly over-dressed. Maybe it's all just a state of mind...
Silver print. Size: 8"x6", mounted on a 12"x10" black board. No markings or writing of any kind anywhere, but presumably taken in the American southwest ca. 1890-1900. Private collection. n.f.s.
Click here to take a look at an actual-size copy of the image, but be aware that it is 373 k, and takes a moment to load...
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