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January 7, 2014

One Couple Takes the Same Christmas Portraits for More Than 40 Years From 1900 Until 1942

These stereoscopic holiday portraits of Berlin couple Richard and Anna Wagner—taken every Christmas Eve from the first year of their marriage in 1900 until 1942—were sent out as Christmas cards to the couple's friends. Today, they inadvertently offer the modern viewer a fascinating perspective on the passage of time. There are the expected physical changes, like weight fluctuations and thinning hair, as well as the addition of new technology.

For 42 years, the couple posed in front of the tree, creating an elegant visual story over a lengthy period. As the years progress, viewers can see signs of the changing times: in 1915, a map in the background signifies the ongoing war; overcoats and a note in 1917 indicate a lack of coal for heat during the winter; and the presence of an electric vacuum cleaner in 1927 serves as evidence that the couple installed electricity into their home.

Their last photograph together was in 1942. Anna died three years later and Richard died shortly before Christmas in 1950. The memory of their love lives on through this extensive series that was located in an attic in the former East Berlin and published a half century after the couple took their last photograph.

The first card shows the young and newly married couple - Richard sports a silver topped cane and Anna lift up Meitz, her cat, to show him the various gifts they have received. The house is sparsely decorated but comfortable.


By 1912 their material wealth has increased, as have their waistlines. Richard now sits at the desk as Anna tidies around him.

A map is included in the 1915 picture to show the advances of the German Troops in the Great War.

By 1917, the fortunes of the War have been reversed, and Anna and Richard are in their overcoats, signaling the lack of winter fuel.

In 1927, Richard begins to wear glasses and is hair is showing signs of grey. Anna’s Christmas present for that year is a vacuum cleaner – electricity has been installed.

1935 is a frugal year and Richard begins to look older.

By 1942, both have gone completely grey and are again wearing their winter coats. The final picture in the series shows Anna all alone – no tree, no presents. Richard had died in August of that year. And even though Anna lived another five years, the series stops here.



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