Father and daughter in Hamilton, Ontario

The back of this cabinet card is blank, so I can’t say for sure that the sitters are father and daughter, but it’s a safe bet.  At first I thought he might be wearing a clerical collar, but they always clasp in the back, rather than the front.

His suit is simple but well-tailored.  Her dress is elaborate and beautiful, and she’s holding a pair of daisies, which indicate that this photo was taken during a Canadian summer.  His gaze is angled slightly away from the camera, and his eyes look distant, as though his thoughts are elsewhere.  In contrast, she’s focused entirely on the present moment, looking directly at the camera with an intensity that draws our eyes to hers.

Father and daughter in Ontario by Cochran 2
Cabinet card by Charles Schriber Cochran (1854-1933), Hamilton, Ontario.



26 thoughts on “Father and daughter in Hamilton, Ontario

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  1. What a shame that the photo sustained so much damage! My eye was immediately drawn to the little girl because she looks so forlorn. Hopefully, she was just unaccustomed to posing for a photograph. Photographs from this time period have taken on a new poignancy for me after reading a series of letters from a man who immigrated to Australia from England in the 1860s and was yearning for letters and photographs from family he hadn’t seen in years: https://jonesfamilyhistory.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/thomas-waters-letters-to-bedfordshire-23-march-1865/.

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    1. Thanks for the link, Liz, although the letters sound a little depressing. 😉 It’s interesting that you read the girl’s expression as forlorn, because I don’t read it that way at all. I wonder if you were influenced by the letters from Australia you’d just read? When my mother saw this post, she thought the man looked like a clergyman. She also thought they might have been Anglo-Indian (from India). If that was true, their family might have been very far away, indeed.

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    1. I think you’re right about their relatives being far away. There was a lot of immigration to Canada from Europe in the late 1800s. The man’s eyes look a little tired to me, maybe a little sad. The girl looks very serious, and yes, maybe hopeful. Why isn’t her mother in the photo? Her mother would have immigrated with them, which makes me think that something happened to her. Before modern medicine, women often died young. This could explain why Liz interpreted the girl’s expression as “forlorn” (sad, lonely). If the girl lost her mother, that would affect her personality in many ways.

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      1. You, as always, see the main meaning of thе photo. You explain why this man has only one child.I also see another foto on the table with a baby. Maybe this is a photo where mom holds this little girl in her arms.The eyes of the man are kind and gentle. He must be a mom and a dad for this girl I admire him!

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      2. I hope he was a loving father, and not strict or emotionally distant. You see the best in him. I find him a little hard to read, but men rarely showed warmth or emotion in photos during the 1800s. (This one was probably made in the 1880s.)

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    1. I think you’re right, Morgaine. There’s something unsettled about the portrait. There’s an unease, which Liz interpreted as sadness and Lola interpreted as hope or anticipation. To me the photo feels like a statement: “We’re together and we’re doing fine.”

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      1. There’s a thick layer of snow everywhere and I think it won’t disappear until mars/April next year. The winter in Norway is long and cold, perfect condition for winter sport enthusiasts (not me unfortunately 😊). Have a great rest of the week, and take care.

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  2. To me, they look okay – the child is intent on trying to stay still (but she’s actually quite relaxed, look at how she’s holding the flowers) and the man also looks fairly relaxed and calm. Not sure if it’s my imagination but his right (to our view, his left) eye looks like it’s drifted. Sort of the opposite of a squint, I’ve forgotten what it’s called… a lazy eye?

    Very nice photo, lovely subjects. 🙂 In need of some restoration but still lovely.

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  3. As soon as I glanced at the photo, I thought, “That child’s unhappy, and anxious.” The eyes and the mouth of both suggest a blood relationship, but it’s hard to judge anything more. Honestly, both give the impression of being caught up in something larger than themselves: perhaps a move, perhaps the mother’s death, perhaps a pending separation. In any event, it’s quite a compelling image.

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    1. Compelling is a great word for the image, as it compels us to look and to try to guess the state of mind of the sitters and their circumstances. More generally, there’s something uniquely powerful in the gaze of children who look at us (in real life) with such focus that they seem to see right into our core, past the defensive walls and facades we routinely guard ourselves with. They compel us to reveal who we really are. I’m reminded of another example on the blog: https://tokensofcompanionship.blog/2017/09/24/tamara-and-her-little-sister/

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  4. This is a compelling photo, especially the girl’s eyes. They certainly do draw you into the photo.

    I didn’t get a sense of sadness or anxiety with either person here… I immediately read their expressions as, “When’s the darn flash going to go off!”

    Something your blog has done: It’s made me slow down and really look at old photographs, and I mean REALLY examine them. Thanks for that. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, your comment means a lot! I go on Flickr from time to time, mainly for research into early photographers. It’s a great place to find things, but the problem is, there are TOO MANY things to look at. I find myself browsing quickly and not looking closely at anything. Not every photo is worth spending time on, but the exercise of closely examining a photo often pays off when you notice little details or you make a connection between the image and a sitter’s life. The blog format is very good for that, especially when readers join in. 🙂

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