Alice Hughes, from "A Lady Photographer Who Never Photographs Men." The Harmsworth Magazine, London, Vol. 11, 1899. Reprinted in Illuminations: Women Writing on Photography from the 1850s to the Present. Edited by Liz Heron and Val Williams. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 1996.
..."'Yes, it is quite true,'" she observed, 'that I never photograph men. When I first made up my mind to become a professional photographer I decided to take only ladies and children, and I have not had any reason to repent my decision. For one thing,' she added, smiling, 'ladies, of course, make very much prettier pictures than do their husbands and brothers, and there is nothing I enjoy more than taking children, either alone or in groups....
'I suppose your object in each case is to produce a photograph which really looks as if it had been taken from a portrait?'
'Of course I wish to produce an artistic effect, and as I think that this can be more easily achieved by means of what may be called the open-air-background, I suppose that this does often give my photographs the appearance of a painting.
'Again, I have very decided views as to what sort of clothes should be worn by those who are going to have their portrait taken.
'The majority of women, whatever be their age, look well in creamy white, and there is no doubt that soft, flowing draperies add immensely to the beauty of a photograph. Of course, in one matter, a photographer is, as compared with an artist, at a great disadvantage; no preliminary studies can be taken; the effect produced is final. I may, however, tell you that before posing a sitter, I always make a brief study, as it were, of her personality; therefore I need hardly say that I always operate myself.'
'Then do you seriously mean that every woman who comes to have her photograph taken ought to wear a white dress?'
'She will be very much more pleased with the result; of that I feel quite sure. Of course white includes every pale colour, save perhaps the softer shades of red, which, as you probably know, always comes out black in a photograph. A simple tea- gown, open at the neck, will often produce a very much better result than an elaborate stiff dinner-dress; and this type of costume has the further advantage of being dateless-that is to say, the photograph will not grow old-fashioned.
'I daresay you have noticed that many people nowadays are fond of being taken in a low dress and a large picture hat. This really may be called the revival of the Gainsborough or Joshua Reynolds type of photograph. I was the first to revive this style of portrait, which produces in many cases an exceptionally charming result.'
'I believe you also revived the fashion of ladies being taken with their children?'
'Yes. What can be more charming and more natural than the portrait of a pretty young woman with her baby in her arms, or with her children grouped about her? ...'"