Not Always So Formal

Two pictures of the same woman. The first one is a portrait of her on her own; in the other one she is accompanied by a man, who is clearly her husband, or at least her fiancé. Usually, photographs of married couples from this era are very formal and stiff; pictures of a husband and a wife standing next to each other with composed expressions, or those ones where one of them sits on a chair and the other one stands beside them. Any expression of closeness or affection tends to be restricted to a hand carefully laid on the shoulder of the other – here, however, the mood is very different.

The couple is portrayed on a sofa, the man casually half-lying on it, with his upper body propped up against the armrest and his own hand. He is holding his arm relaxedly around the woman’s waist, and his eyes are fixed on her, not the camera. The woman, although maintaining a more formal pose, is sitting on the sofa, leaning against and towards the man. Her hands are clasped together, the left one on top, displaying the engagement/wedding ring on her finger. The ring is also visible on her portrait as well.

Both pictures were taken in Helsinki, Finland, in the photography studio of K.E Ståhlberg at some point during the 1880’s.

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