Great-aunt Esther


This stylish-looking woman was my great-aunt Esther, and I believe this was the beach at Brighton, Sussex, as I have another photo from the same period, but not taken on the same day, in which she and two of her sisters were sitting in deckchairs and it says Brighton on something behind them.

I decided to keep things simple and do part of the background as a slight tint rather than in full colour, as I wanted Esther to be more noticeable than the people pottering around with their boats in the distance. Also the photo was too damaged to make out exactly what they were doing, so I thought an impression was best.

If you’re viewing this on a phone or tablet you probably won’t be able to see the detail, but if you’re on a desktop I hope you’ll be able to make out the pebbles in the foreground.  I’ve tried to make them as realistic as possible. I know Brighton, though haven’t been for many years, and its pebbles are many different colours, though the predominant colour is pinkish. I started colouring them like that then stopped myself because, of course, this was taken on a dull, cloudy, day – or maybe it started out bright but then, typical of Britain, it became overcast.   So there are no sharp contrasts of light and shade and… the pebbles are shiny which means it had recently rained.

Wet pebbles are darker than when they are dry and it brings out their detail.

The tracks behind Esther look old and worn, so I weathered them with the colour that damp, greening wood has.

Most of the family were in the fabric trade in one way or another and like most of the clothes in my family photos of that period and earlier, I thought this might have been an outfit she’d made herself, particularly as the family weren’t wealthy.

Embroidery, silk or satin lined jacket, pleated skirt, metal or metallic adornment, beads, stockings, white shoes, pale gloves and decorative bag, and a wide brimmed hat… did everyone dress up for a day at the seaside or were she and her out-of-shot sisters on their way back from something? A tea-dance? A wedding?  I doubt that I’ll ever know.


15 thoughts on “Great-aunt Esther

    1. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Also that she wasn’t ‘high class’ as she looks, but will have made the clothes herself (or her mother or one of her sisters will have done, I expect). Mmm… the light tinting does help. I do that occasionally.


    1. Thanks, Yvonne. Yep, she does look very upper class and elite – and that would have made her laugh, as it does me, as she most certainly wasn’t! 🙂 Also – yeah, her expression. She always looked rather grim. (I knew her).

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love the cut of the suit jacket and the decoration. It looks very Art Deco. By the style of clothes it looks to be the late 1920’s or early 1930’s. Even with the drastic changes in women’s clothing (no corsets, rise in hemlines from ankle to mid calf, no more hobble skirts or shirtwaists) their ideas about what was appropriate wear for a woman to be seen in public are quite different than ours are now. A lady wore a hat and gloves in public I first thought that was a handkerchief in her right hand, but it isn’t. It’s a pair of white gloves. Even in the 1950s, I can remember having to wear a hat to church (we were protestant and I was 6). They had little shelves in the choir room where the ladies who sang in the choir (like my mom ) could stash their hats during church services.

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  2. I also remember the days when people dressed for a trip on an airplane, or to go to town for shopping. I remember white gloves — both short and long — and little bags on chains. She really looks very elegant, and self-possessed. I think you did an excellent job with the toning, too. The pebbles are just right, and have that damp, beachy look to them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad the pebbles look right, I checked with some photos online of the same beach, or at least near the spot where I think it might have been but mostly did it from memory.
      There was a time in the 1950s and early 1960s in which people would dress up for all sorts of things that they don’t do now, I remember some of that, too.


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