The Victorian Portrait Series

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kittiquin's avatar

My uni work for the semester is finished, I can go back to sleeping at night and I have time to submit things here! There are about 30 pictures, I will submit them here over the next few weeks.

But first, I'm going to try to explain my recent project a little, just to give it some context. It may make more sense then. Or possibly less.

so, we were asked to do some work for the Australian National Museum relating to their current exhibit, "Australian Journeys". The exhibit is sort of an Australian history in objects; old European maps from before the "discovery" of Australia, miniature portraits of Captain Cook, love tokens that convicts used to carve and send back to England, cameras that Frank Hurley took to the arctic on the Endeavor, etc.

the whole thing is depressingly colonial. Notice how the history only begins when Europeans come to Australia? There were people living here for 3000 years before then, who get barely a mention in the whole exhibit. Which isn't what I did my work on, it just really pisses me off (another girl focused on that. The museum people were not impressed.)

The part that I thought was interesting was a display of the artifacts of a family in the 19th century. There was a collection of portraits of them, all prim and proper and Victorian. I thought I'd do something in the realm of Victorian portraiture. How prescribed it was, how the gender roles were played out for the camera. The way in which people construct an ideal world in their records. I began to think about what was left out of the exhibition.

I ended up with three collections.

The Photograms, which were about the dissolution of individuals into history. They were a sort of... visual metaphor? People fading and corroding and being absorbed into swirling narratives of history.

Charlotte Aberforth by kittiquin Arthur Middleton by kittiquin Sergeant Thomas Darragh by kittiquin Leslie E Huckins by kittiquin Sam Compton by kittiquin

they were specifically photograms because of a class assignment. A photogram is an image made by exposing objects on light-sensitive paper. I used photographic negatives and layers of acetate and paint. These were also the first time I saw an actual advantage of darkroom over digital - for the most part I feel that it just comes down to how people prefer to work, and whether you feel the need to have gigantic prints. But the quality of these photograms is far superior in person - the colours are so bright and lovely, the black is so deeply inky, their screen versions do not do them justice.

The Family Album, in which I sort of re-enacted (reinterpreted?) Victorian family portraits. I did not exactly copy any particular photos, I sort of made an amalgamation of the features common to Victorian portraiture.

Henry by kittiquin
Emily by kittiquin
Georgina by kittiquin
Wedding Portrait by kittiquin
Groom by kittiquin Bride by kittiquin
Georgia by kittiquin
Hugo by kittiquin
Johanna by kittiquin Johanna in Oils by kittiquin
Spiritualist by kittiquin

They were collected together inside an actual Victorian photo album. There were also framed pictures, containing varnish, dust, hair, and other things I found sifting through garbage bins and crawling under my house.

Georgina in Frame by kittiquin


The Pornography, the anatagonist of the family portraits, in which I reenacted the other side of Victorian society which was not acknowledged in the exhibiton. This included pornography, photos of actresses and postcard women, fashion imagery, and pictures from medical journals (many of which which were like National Geographic in the period where they featured a naked woman in every issue: a veneer of respectability was used to disguise erotica. Need I mention that the best selling medical book of the 19th century was Psychopathia Sexualis?). It isn't really pornographic in the modern sense at all, there's no actual sex.

Hanna by kittiquin
Bust II by kittiquin Bust by kittiquin

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Doll by kittiquin

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Sleeping Girl by kittiquin

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Eyes Open by kittiquin

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Behind by kittiquin

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Sleeping on her Side by kittiquin
Sleeping on her Side close-up by kittiquin
Nymph by kittiquin
Corset by kittiquin Corset II by kittiquin

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Fig. 133. by kittiquin

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Fig. 132. by kittiquin

They were collected in another miniature Victorian album, which was kept inside a hollowed out book ("English Life and Leisure"). There were also dusty framed versions.

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Doll in Frame by kittiquin

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Eyes Open in Frame by kittiquin

I'll be uploading steadily over the next few weeks, and adding pictures to this journal along the way. There are 5 photograms, 11 family portraits, and 11 pornographic portraits.

And in a couple of weeks some of my work will be up on the National Museum's website! Not the pornography, but the family stuff and the photograms. (The work about what is left out of museums has been left out of the museum.)

If you're in Canberra sometime in the next couple of months there's going to be an exhibition. But I am not entirely sure when or where.

© 2009 - 2024 kittiquin
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