Fine Art Photographs from 1913 | Bath & Wiltshire Fine Art Photographer
Christina Dressed in Red, 1913
English Fine Art Photography
Mervyn O'Gorman (1871-1958) was an English electrical engineer and hobbyist photographer - he would probably have been forgotten half a century after his death if it weren't for the incredible 'Christina' pictures that he made in 1913. For a long time it was assumed that the girl in the photographs, Christina, was O'Gorman's daughter: this turned out to be untrue, and for a long time Christina's identity remained a mystery. The photo set has received so much attention partly because it contains some very early colour photographs, produced by a process called Autochrome, but also because the pictures have such a dreamlike, other-worldly quality. They have many of the qualities that we find in some fine art photography that's produced today.
Early Photographic Portraiture
The 1913 photographs were taken on location on the English coast, at Lulworth Cove in Dorset. In the top image you can see Durdle Door in the background. Autochrome was one of the earliest colour photographic processes, and involved using glass plates which were coated with potato starch to filter dyes. One of the characteristics of Autochrome is the vivid way it renders reds - it's pretty clear to see why Christina is wearing a red costume.
In June 2015 Christina's true identity was revealed: she wasn't O'Gorman's daughter after all. Her name was Christina Bevan (1897-1981) and she was the daughter of Robert Bevan (1870-1943), a philosopher and academic at King's College, London. The Bevans lived close to the O'Gormans in Chelsea and were presumably family friends.
Dreamy Fine Art Imagery
The photographs have a strong appeal today, probably because they have the power to convey something other-worldly and in some ways they look like scenes from someone's dream. This style of photography was known as Pictorialism and dominated photography in the late-19th and early 20th centuries. Images in this style are typically soft-focus or out of focus and were supposed to be a way of projecting a particular emotion into the viewer's imagination. For me these pictures have a slightly haunting quality and I guess I still think of that time period in black & white!