Because I've always felt a wonder at old photographs not easy to explain. Maybe I don't need to explain; maybe you'll recognize what I mean. I mean the sense of wonder, staring at the strange clothes and vanished backgrounds, at knowing that what you're seeing was once real. That light really did reflect into a lens from these lost faces and objects. That these people were really there once, smiling into a camera. You could have walked into the scene then, touched those people, and spoken to them. You could actually have gone into that strange outmoded old building and seen what now you never can - what was just inside the door.

The wonder is even stronger with old stereoscopic views - the almost, but not quite, identical pair of photographs mounted side by side on stiff cardboard, that, looked at through the viewer, give a miraculous effect of depth. It's never been a mystery to me why the whole country was once crazy about them. Because the good ones, the really clear sharp photographs, are so real: Insert a view, slide it into focus, and the old scene leaps out at you, astonishingly three-dimensional. And then, for me, the awe becomes intense. Because now you really see the arrested moment, so actual it seems that if you watch intently, the life caught here must continue. That the raised horse's hoof so startlingly distinct in the foreground must move down to the solidness of pavement below it again; those carriage wheels revolve, the girl walk closer, the man move on out of the scene. The feeling that the tantalizing reality of the vanished moment might somehow be seized - that if you watch long enough you might detect that first nearly imperceptible movement - is the answer to the question Kate has asked me more than once: "How can you sit there so long--you hardly move! - staring endlessly at the very same picture?"

13 July, 2014

A family at home by Nicola Cassinello

Nicola Cassinello (1833-1890) was active as a photographers in Brighton and Sussex during the 1860s and 1870s. In 1862 Nicola was working in Cork, Ireland, but by 1865 he had moved to Brighton, joining his brother George who was already working in Brighton as a photographer. Nicola specialised in “outdoor photographs” such as the one shown here.
I would love to know where the house is, there are no details on the back, and the photograph is not numbered (as Nicola’s usually were). The 1871 census showed Nicola living and working in Hastings so it would seem that it is in the Brighton area and photographed around 1865.
Much more information can be found on the excellent Sussex Photo History website: Click here.
NCassinello house
Somewhere in the Brighton area around 1865
Close up portion, sadly not very sharp focus

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