Monday, March 31, 2008

CDV and Cabinet Cards - The Backs

I've long been fascinated not just by the photos on the front of CDVs and Cabinet Cards but by the typography and designed on the back - or as we like to call it in the trade: the verso! You can tell a lot about a CDV or Cabinet photo without even looking at the photo sometimes just from the back. The primary information of course is who took the photo and where, although sometimes this is a little more tricky than it sounds because a single photographer or company might have two or many offices listed on the back of their cards.

It is also possible, however, to get an idea of the date of the card from the back. On the whole, the simpler the card, the older it might be. The first cards were simply stamped or very simply printed with just a brief note of the photographer. Then, as the studio photo became ever more popular, the designs proliferated. One can sometimes get a hint of date from the design of course - the very aesthetic movement designs with a superfluity of japanese devices, parasols, storks and bamboo would be no earlier than the aesthetic movement itself of course. Other indications of date from the verso of the card would include the practise of some photographers who liked to note awards won at various exhibitions: clearly the card cannoy be earlier than the latest award mentioned on the back.

This kind of dating evidence should only really be used in conjunction with what is on the front of the card. The fashions of the day need to be accounted for when trying to suggest a date for a particular photograph. My own preference is for the simpler, older designs. The later more florid designs can be fun but there is something of the simplicity of letterpress in the older ones which I like.

Obviously, now that Flickr has come into my life, I am able to collect together the backs, as well as the fronts of CDVs and cabinet photos.

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