Friday, 26 February 2010

Sepia Saturday: With a Soldier at Her Side

A couple of weeks ago, I contributed to Sepia Saturday with a post about my great grandmother's sister, Frances Lillian Thorne. I included a photograph of Frances, seated with the six eldest of sixteen children.

Since then, I found this picture of Frances, with her husband, James Mayell.

Frances and James married on 15th June, 1908, and I suspect this photograph was taken not many years after the event.

They look a splendid couple, although James appears a little awkward in front of the camera.

I'm short on details of their life together, so I'm really left to draw my conclusions from what I see.

Obviously a studio photograph, with Frances in a period dress, topped with a fine hat. James in uniform, a medal worn with pride on his tunic.

But there's something about them. Their stance, perhaps a look in their eyes. More than a suggestion that these were two young people who were preparing to face an uncertain future.

More Sepia Saturday participants HERE

© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges  


  1. Hi Martin

    I thought that the body language of the couple is very interesting:

    they are both leaning away from each other
    they both look uncomfortable
    she has her hand on her hip - an unusually assertive posture for a photograph
    and he holds a riding crop...

    wouldn't you love to be able to talk with them...

    Happy days

    very interesting combination

  2. Martin, like many people I find old photographs fascinating. Yes, I would LOVE to talk to them. I always wonder about body language from times gone by, and how in films we are always shown people, even married couples, being quite formal with one another. Were they always? Even in private?
    Will we ever know.

    As I said, it is truly fascinating.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Frances and James are a handsome pair -- she with her little waist and he with his big mustaches. Maybe the awkwardness of their pose is due to having to remain still so long. Or maybe they just had an argument...

    I took your advice, Martin, and signed up for Sepia Saturday. Will post mine at our midnight -- in three and a half hours.

  4. I love the hat - but am eternally grateful we don't have to wear ones like that now!

  5. yes a very fashionable couple - frances with her wasp waist and gorgeous hat - and james with the ever so slight curl at the end of his magnificent mustache.

    their stance does leave much to one's imagination!

  6. Oh yes, their stance does indicate a hesitation, that's for sure. Funny how they aren't even touching each other.
    I do love his moustache (and I don't go for hairy men as a rule).


  7. Not even touching hands, but when I look back at old photographs brides and grooms never seem to show any emotion. I wonder if posing in a studio has something to do with that?

  8. They look very handsome and beautiful. And the distance may have a lot to do with the formal setting. They probably adored each other, but in those days it wasn't acceptable to show that in public.

  9. It's amazing what stories we can compose in our minds, looking at old photographs... and somewhat unfortunate that we have to.

  10. I think he is being very concerned about his posture. What a great old photo.

  11. Like other commentors, I noticed that they don't seem very relaxed together--on the other hand, I know the old photographic process could be a bit arduous on those having their picture taken, so it might simply be physical discomfort from posing. Interesting to contemplate!

  12. Actually, some of these old poses remind me of an old joke:

    A young man was looking at old family photos with his grandfather. They came across one of the grandfather and his new bride. In the photo, the grandfather (as a young man, naturally) sat in an elegant antique chair, while his young wife stood at the chair's side.

    The grandson joked about the corny, old-fashioned pose, to which the grandfather replied, "The era had nothing to do with it! That photo was taken when we'd just returned from our honeymoon. I was too tired to stand up, and your grandmother was too sore to sit down!"

  13. Yes .They Stand In Order To Fill As Much Of The Space As Possible.
    James Looks Very Defensive Of Frances.
    Great Photo.

  14. they do look sort of on edge don't they?
    a hundred years +++, and what a different world now.

  15. oh dear, our forebears were so much more in awe of officialese, as photos must have been then, then we are now. Stiff upper lip and equally stiff backs, please.

  16. Thank you, one and all. The body language in these old photographs is something I'll be paying much more attention to now.

    When I first saw this picture of Frances and James, her pose gave me the impression that she was trying to distance herself a bit. I'm obviously not the only one to think that. Surely we can't all be wrong?

  17. Looking at these old photos reminds me of what I used to do as a child. When we would go driving at night, I used to look in the windows of the houses and try to imagine the lives of the people who lived in them. Of course, lots of people had their windows open back then--no air conditioning--and you got these perfect little lighted vignettes.

    These photos are similar vignettes. We can imagine what their lives were like, but we can't really know. What we imagine might be more interesting than the truth. . . .

  18. Susan

    "..I used to look in the windows of the houses and try to imagine the lives of the people who lived in them."

    I did the same thing when I was a child. Something I rediscovered on my regular train journeys from Farringdon to Wimbledon Chase, particularly on winter evenings. Getting a glimpse inside houses from the rear aspect, seemed even more revealing.

    You're right though. Our imaginations can often make the routine and the mundane seem almost exotic at times.

  19. I think that during that time period, pretty much everyone was facing that uncertain future. It's mind-boggling to try and understand how people survived in those days, with such limited resources and such uncertainty in life. But, I think that it is part of our element as humans to always find ways to make things work.

    You have such a treasure of photos, Martin.


  20. Nevine

    I totally agree. We're usually at our resourceful best when times are tough.

    This weekend I have added more treasures to my collection. I will tell the story in next week's Sepia Saturday.


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