Photo Detective: Alice and the Looking Glass

By Maureen A. Taylor Premium

In an earlier column, “How Are They Related: 5/29/00” a teenager posed for a photographer with a large bow in her hair. This week, Mary Wisniewski submitted an image of a younger girl with a bow in her hair. An elderly uncle gave her the image, but no one in the family can identify the girl reflected in the mirror.

This young girl is dressed like a fashion plate from a magazine of 1900-1910. Every detail of her clothing is perfect. She is wearing a knee length white dress belted at the waist. The length of the dress is an indication of her age, probably around 10 years old. Teenage girls wore their dresses beneath the knee. The waves in her hair are a result of braiding the hair while wet and keeping it that way until dry. She is also wearing white tights and matching shoes with a bow to balance the one in her hair. It is likely that her family had some financial resources to be able to dress her in the latest fashion.

Another indication of her parent’s economic status is their choice of a photographer. Bundy, of Terre Haute, Ind., was obviously an experienced photographer and catered to a particular type of client. Bundy’s choice of a pose is very sophisticated. The girl’s image reflected in the mirror shows the viewer her clothing from all angles. What do you think of when you first look at this photograph? It is evocative of the Lewis Carroll story, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, first published in 1872. Is this pose a clue to the girl’s name or an indication of one of her favorite stories? Bundy used the mirror to draw us into the picture and reflect upon the meaning of his use of a single, simple prop.

The girl’s costume places the image within the first decade of the 20th century. Information on the photographer could help narrow the date. Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate life dates for Bundy.

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