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May 29, 2015

Vivid Color Portraits of Two Young Edwardian Girls in a Garden

Born in Ely in 1872, Etheldreda Laing was the daughter of Richard Winkfield, head of the King’s School. After studying drawing in Cambridge, she married the barrister Charles Miskin Laing in 1895, after which the couple lived in Oxford. In 1899, they moved to Bury Knowle House in the Oxford district of Headington.

Enthralled with photography, which she appears to have practiced since the late 1890s, Etheldreda had her own darkroom built in the house. She showed an immediate interest in the Autochrome color process when the plates first became available in 1907. From 1908 she took many photographs of her daughters Janet and Iris in the garden. In later life she painted miniatures and joined the Royal Miniature Society.

Laing showed great care in her compositions, taking carefully posed shots, mainly in the garden where the light was good. There is also an indoor photograph of Janet in Japanese kimono, which was popular at the time. It probably required an exposure of up to one minute.

Portrait of Etheldreda Laing (1872–1960), ca. 1910.

(Photos: National Media Museum/ Science and Society Picture Library/ Getty Images, via Mashable/ Retronaut)


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