Last week I posted this image of a Victorian couple cracking up whilst having their portrait taken (via @ricardopresto)…



It is lovely.  But my question is – is it genuine or fake?  Also, perhaps more importantly, does that matter?


    1. It’s very obviously fake. In “Victorian” times you had to sit absolutely stock still for several minutes due to the exposure times required. Spontaneity was not an option.

    2. But look at how blurry the photos are where they would be moving. That seems completely consistent with the long exposure times.

    3. @Bob

      Because nobody could fake a blur? Sounds reminiscent of Ghost Busters “You’re right, no human being would stack books like this.”

  1. These photo look like they were taken within a few seconds of each other. My thinking is that Victoria photography could not take photos that quickly (ie the plate had to be changed between shots). So I would have to say FAKE.

  2. Would that the photos shown here were genuine, but photographic technology was rather slow then. Nowadays, one can do lots of cool things with various photo software!

  3. An early experiment in making movies perhaps? I assume this is all on one plate. Move the plate through a slide while the lens cap is on then expose again. Could be done. Mmovement is blurred in third image down which suggests quite a short exposure was used.

    1. I was quite enjoying both the photo AND the discussion up until your supercilious comment. Richard asked if it was genuine or not. What a shame that people are trying to answer!?

  4. The ‘Victorian period’ lasted a long time! The first photo ever dates from 1822, so that gives us roughly 80 years of photography in which things developed a lot! (See what I did there?)
    The first commercially successful automatic photographic apparatus was the “Bosco“ from the Inventor Conrad Bernitt of Hamburg (Patented July-16-1890). (wikipedia), that’s well within the time-frame we are talking about.
    And here is an entire site of Smiling Victorians:
    All in all, I’m inclined to say: REAL. 🙂

  5. By 1860’s exposure times were around 3 seconds and by the late 1880’s under a second. There is no reason to believe that this is a fake. There are many photos of Victorians smiling! What a sweet picture!

  6. One thing that makes me think it’s genuine is that parts of the subjects are somewhat blurry in the photos where they are smiling and laughing. This seems consistent with long exposure times.

  7. Every time this photo is reposted, it comes with the label “Victorian,” which is never questioned. Why? It looks like it could be as late as the 1920s to me.

  8. I reckon the smiling people might be different people to the ‘Victorians’. The first 2 are genuine, the second 2 are genuine modern people dressed up as the older people. That’s my take.
    Also, I’m wondering if someone can tell me when passport photos first came into use?

  9. I think they’re real. If someone were going to go to the effort to fake something like this, I think they’d fake more (like some accidental lewd gesture or something). Hardly seems worth it for just this (unless the subjects are famous, I suppose).

    But I don’t think it matters. Interesting, regardless.

  10. I think it odd that we are so unused to seeing Victorians smiling, that people are genuinely doubting the authenticity of the photographs. Why should it be fake? Our Grandparents and Great-grandparents had fun too!

    Laughter wasn’t just invented this century. People of the past are just the same as us, but without some of the gadgets.

    1. Laughter wasn’t just invented this century but I think it is true that various time periods and different cultures can experience higher or lower levels of happiness. I think the common belief (which many old Victorian pictures seem to support) is that people weren’t as happy back then as they are now.

  11. This isn’t fake. Photography progressed like lightning speeds after the first 40 years of the invention of photography.

    People who say they have to stay still for minutes at a time is certainly correct but it obvious these pictures were not taken during the dawn of the photograph.

    You can tell these pictures were taken when cameras had progressed beyond the times of setting up a six foot wooden platform and making someone stay still like an oil painting.

    Cameras were widely used at the turn of the centuries in many, many fairs with these exact type of photographs. Even if this picture was taken in 1900, that’s is still over 50 years of photographic progress. People could move and produce this blur in 1900….which fits in perfectly to their clothing.

    Just 14 years after that photographs had progressed so much that you could take a picture of a soldier running across trenches with little to no blur.

    So yes, these set of pictures certainly and absolutely could have happened.

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