Friday, January 10, 2014

Antique Image of the Day: Punch and Judy at Ilfracombe, Paul Martin, 1895

Punch and Judy at Ilfracombe, 1895
The Victoria and Albert Museum

I love these images of true Victorian Punch and Judy Shows. This photograph was taken at the beach at Ilfracombe (North Devon) in 1895 by Paul Martin.

Such images became popular around 1890 when it became possible to combine the gelatin dry-plate negative, which was fast and highly sensitive, with as the V&A puts it, an “inconspicuous device known as a 'detective' camera.” The detective camera allowed for a new type of candid snapshot since the camera was disguised as a leather box. A whole new kind of photography emerged—one that was not posed and staged as were the studio shots known to most people.

Paul Martin--a wood engraver by training—took hundreds of photographs on London streets and while on holiday at the seaside. Martin's work shows that at the dawn of the Twentieth Century, photography was no longer just the stuff of aristocratic amateurs and professional studios. Martin championed the idea that any person could record their own life and surroundings. Martin holds a special place in art history since he was one of the last wood engravers and one of the first photojournalists.

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