Sometimes I’ll stumble across a website in search of inspiration and I hit gold. I’m not in the mood for knitting right now; with NaNoWriMo approaching rapidly my writing muse is emerging happily and that is taking up all my inspiration (plus I have a mistake in a sock to fix that I just can’t face right now but let’s not talk about that!). Of course procrastination goes hand in hand with writing and I can’t say I’m too worried about that when I stumble on websites like this.
Victorians have such a formal, stiff reputation and a lot of that has to do with the photographs taken of them. When one had to sit motionless for a certain amount of time it’s not surprising that it was easier to keep a straight face! Luckily technology moved fast and gave a little leeway. Or, put in a much less rambly way:
When Joseph-Nicephore Niepce took the first photograph in 1828, his photographic plate required an exposure of eight hours. That exposure time was drastically reduced across the course of the nineteenth century, so that by the 1890s the Collodion process had cut exposure times to two or three seconds.
Nevertheless, a three second exposure meant that subjects had to stand very still to avoid being blurred, and holding a smile for that period was tricky. As a result, we have a tendency to see our Victorian ancestors as even more formal and stern than they might have been. [from here]
Seeing Victorian people in a different context has opened my eyes. They may seem historical and stuffy but in reality they’re generations of people just like us with their fashions, their passions, and their apparently unending vanity. The 1800s is the first time in history we’ve been able to uncover ordinary people in ordinary lives with the power of photographs; still prone to interpretation from the photographer and the viewer, but nonetheless still much closer to reality than old paintings and prose. Maybe that’s why I find them so endlessly amazing.
How to be a Retronaut covers more than just the 1800s. Have a browse. It’s the 1800s that catch my attention though and fill me with inspiration.