Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tobias Braybrook Takes Me On A Strange Journey

The Good Lady Wife and I went to an Antique Fare on Sunday (no, I didn't buy a willow plate) and, amongst other things, I came away with four small Victorian photographs of the type that are known as carte de visites (CDV). These small photographic portraits were popular in the 1880s and 1890s and they gave rise to a flowering of local photographic studios in the towns and cities of Britain. The joy of these little things - which only cost me 50 pence each - is not just reading the faces (which can be a timeless occupation in itself) - but also the wonderfully printed reverse sides which feature the business details of the photographic studios.

The example I am featuring here is a delightful portrait of a young woman which was taken by the North-Eastern photographer, Tobias Braybrook. It appears that Braybrook was active in West Hartlepool in the 1880s and 1890s and I am sure that there must be hundreds of these small CDV's of his around. But there is something charming about it, something that makes me want to treasure it. I suspect I have just become a collector of CDV's so you can expect to see more on News From Nowhere from time to time.

One result from Googling Tobias Braybrook was to find a link to a great little tale written by his great, great, great niece who, a few years ago, was writing an on-line journal under the name of radiaor_grrrl. She spins a strange story of meeting her long-dead photographer antecedent whilst he was selling ice-creams on the sea front at Marske!  Another example of how little things can take you on the strangest journeys.


  1. Oh my you are hooked. I think Tobias is still here in his photos...you didn't need to buy a Willow plate...you found his photo cards instead...same thing...a piece of him ..look your writing about him and I'm reading about him...is that not the tale of the plate?
    I love old photographs too...I have many..I had to explain to my children..that THESE are not related to us...I just love their faces...but who knows if they'll telltheir children..they may just live on as relatives of mine..hahaha
    Oh and I love your "pence"
    sounds so romantic

  2. Boy, I would buy willow as I can only buy Japanese willow over here. I really like your purchase. It is so amazing to touch something that has such a distant history. It all really fascinates me and I would love to hit some of your old antique stores.

  3. Wow, that is some energetic copy on the reverse side of the photo. I've noticed that about the arts and crafts of the Victorian era - people were so repressed in their everyday lives and just let it all out in their creative lives. Hence Queen Anne residential architecture and letterpress like this.

    Keep searching, Alan. You always seem to find such interesting objects!

  4. The portraits are so different to those that would be taken today; I think there is an elegance to the reverse of the card which again is so different to the business cards of today. I never cease to be amazed at the way we now expect to Google anything and get a result. A different world to that of Tobias.

  5. As if the portrait wasn't delightful enough, you give us the link to the great, great, great niece's story. And some story it turned out to be!

    As ever, Alan, a though-provoking and entertaining post. Cheers!

  6. I hadn't known about the CDV--what an interesting phenomenon (thanks for the Wiki link!) A delightful portrait indeed, & I for one am hoping you are hooked on collecting these!

  7. It is a beautiful photograph. How wonderful that you found the ggg neice...I'm going to go look!

  8. I picked up a similar CDV photo last month in a little antique store for $1.00. For some reason I was drawn to the lovely young woman. I should post on her. I'll do some research and see what I come up with. Maybe for this week's Sepia post.

  9. a couple months ago my daughter emma and i visited an delightful antique shop in nearby akron and we had to be dragged away from the old photographs and postcards on sale. how they give flight to the imagination!

    and speaking of imagination, what we find via google!!! the tale of tobias was quite a find friend!


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