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1864 VERY UNUSUAL CIVIL WAR ERA YOUNG WOMAN PHOTO
1864 VERY UNUSUAL CIVIL WAR ERA YOUNG WOMAN PHOTO
This photograph shows a young girl at Aiken house, 1864. Aiken's Landing, Virginia.

What's so unusual about this photograph? For one thing it represents a real change in the way portrait photographs were done. Until about this point in time, portraits were done in one of two ways. Either the subject was posed in a natural, garden-like setting (an allusion to Italian Renaissance painters that were, themselves, trying to emulate their impression of classic Greece) or they were posed in elegant rooms, surrounded by paintings, leather-bound books, etc.

Here, we have a beautiful woman in an expensive dress that denotes class, yet she is posed in the dirt next to a brick wall and an off-center window.

This was not a spur-of-the-moment snapshot (there were no "snapshots" in 1864). The photographer deliberately decided on this setting. Why? Perhaps it is an attempt at realism; this woman, despite her finery, really lived here, and her life depended on the dirt and the bricks of the plantation that surrounds her in the photograph. Perhaps there is something else going on that is lost on a 21st century audience. At any rate, here is a very unusual, almost haunting portrait of a, "Young girl at Aiken house".
 
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