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Fine Art Photographs from 1913 | Bath & Wiltshire Fine Art Photographer

Christina Dressed in Red, 1913

Christina O'Gorman photographed at Lulworth Cove in Dorset, 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.

Christina's red swimming costume was almost certainly chosen because the Autochrome process rendered reds in a fabulously dramatic way.

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.

A close-up portrait of Christina. The camera lens used a very wide aperture, leaving the background out of focus and dreamy.

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.

This photograph would have needed a long exposure time, which gives the sea its smooth effect. To the left of the photograph is the rowing boat that Christina sat by in another image in the series.

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!

This is a very interesting short video from Ted Forbes explaining Pictorialism. 

The garden images were probably taken at Rempstone Hall in Dorset.