Why the Long Face? Part Two

Why the Long Face? Part Two

A few weeks ago I wrote about posing devices employed by photographers to guarantee their clients sat still for their pictures. At that time I also asked if anyone had photographs of the actual head rests and other equipment. Jeffrey W. Deitchler answered the call and sent me two pictures...

A few weeks ago I wrote about posing devices employed by photographers to guarantee their clients sat still for their pictures. At that time I also asked if anyone had photographs of the actual head rests and other equipment. Jeffrey W. Deitchler answered the call and sent me two pictures. Thank you!!


Can you spot the head rest over on the right? It’s the metal arm sticking into the picture. It’s likely that this photo of three men was once in a paper enclosure that hid the device.

Photographers used a variety of devices to keep folks still for their portraits. Chairs, tables and columns gave clients something to lean on. These head rests could be adjusted for the height of the customer and some of them were sturdy enough to gently brace the sitter. However, these rests could also literally clamp around a neck, for instance, to hold someone in place. Sounds pretty uncomfortable!

Here’s what Lake Price’s Manual of Photographic Manipulation (1868, 2nd edition, available on Google Books.) had to say about head rests. There are drawings of other types of these devices.

This is the first time I’ve incorporated original page views in the blog. Let me know if you love it or hate it. It makes the blog a little long, but I really like reading the original text.

Jeffrey sent me one more picture to share with readers. It’s one of his Ford ancestors photographed in Michigan. The entire posing device

I hope you’ll check out the video podcasts on my YouTube Channel.

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  1. I was researching headrests a few months ago and this is great documentation. I collect and study turn of the century photographs and have noticed that nearly every early portrait photo will reveal the headrest’s legs/stand peaking from drapery, under the sitter’s chair, or from behind their legs. Once I started looking I saw it in nearly portrait image I owned. There is also a fabulous image of General Grant posing for Brady in an undecorated studio and the headrest stands next to him. I love how it suggests that Grant was such a sturdy, immovable figure that he didn’t need the assistance of the headrest.

    Thanks for all your hard work! I’ll keep checking back.