Book and Moustache



vintage studio photo of man and woman. Man has handlebar moustache, woman long buttoned skirt. Photocolouring and restoration by Val Erde


This photo makes me smile every time I see it. Look at the way he is leaning over her, displaying his very fine waxed moustache. She holds open her book, looks at the camera and thinks “Oh, you think you are so fine, but when you get home you will put your feet on the table and your feet will smell.”

This is such a lovely example of a studio photo. The backdrop rolls down so that it’s nearly indistinguishable from the floor. the chair barely supports its sitter, the book has blank pages, and while she wears neat and tidy clothes, a pintucked blouse, a buttoned skirt,  it is her partner – her husband? – who is the peacock here. Even without showy clothes, his moustache, his hair, and his theatrical posture, say it all!

There’s a curtain that is over part of the painted backdrop, I suspect it’s there to disguise the fact that the backdrop has to end somewhere. Or maybe to make it look like it’s opening onto a lovely view through a window (though the photographer or studio dresser forgot to put anything like a window frame in). Light comes from the right, casting a very obvious shadow from the curtain onto the backdrop. You rarely get the shadow of a fabric curtain in a forest or dell, do you? Or maybe it’s like the  ‘can you hear a tree fall in the forest if you’re not there to hear it’ scenario. Maybe there is always a curtain casting a shadow in the forest.

Sometimes, with a studio shot photograph, I will leave the backdrop in a monochrome, but give it an overall tint. Sometimes, like here, I paint it. My preference is to give it a daydreamy type of quality, with pinks graduating to blues and with shades of not-too-bright greens for foliage.

I’ve never been able to find any colour examples of antique or vintage backdrops from the old studios. If you come across any, perhaps you could let me know? My thought is that, as they knew the photos wouldn’t be in colour they probably wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of painting them in colour. But who knows? Maybe they did.


15 thoughts on “Book and Moustache

  1. Tut, tut, such a to-do about such a small thing as a waxed moustache. It actually takes quite a bit of effort and dedication to achieve that sort of symmetry, and our fellow here has reason to be proud of it. I tried waxing mine into curls at one point but gave up after a few tries, having better things to spend my time on. As for the seated woman and her expression, I’d say she just barely managed to stifle a sneeze.

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