P3-003 The Mad Tea Party



The Wonderfully Mad World of Hannah Maynard
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Photographer: Hannah Maynard
Dates: 1834 (Cornwall, England) -1918 (Victoria, Canada)
Active: 1862-1912 (Victoria, Canada)
Ran Studio? Yes
Known for: Portraits, Landscapes, Collages, Police Department Mugshots

More Information

All of the images below are from the Royal BC Museum Archives in Victoria, BC, Canada. Click on an image to see its entry in the archve’s database. Note that the titles in [] are unofficial ones I have assigned for reference.

Hannah Maynard, [The Unexpected Tea Party], ca.1893

Hannah Maynard self-portrait; multiple exposure

Hannah Maynard, [In a Victorian Parlor], ca.1895

Hannah Maynard multiple exposure

Hannah Maynard, [Surreal Family Tableau], ca.1895

grandson-H. maynard-odd-family-assemblyf-05095_141

Hannah Maynard, [Hannah her grandson and the locust], ca.1895

H Maynard-grandson-locust-f-02851_141

Hannah Maynard, "Sprays from the Gem Fountain" (print), ca.1880-1890 (in the fountain toward the bottom there are faces flowing in the water and reflected in the “pool” of water below.

print-Hannah-Maynard-GEM1880 or 1890-i-51987_141

Hannah Maynard, "Sprays from the Gem Fountain” (glass plate negative), ca.1880-1890



Welcome to Photographs, Pistols, and Parasols, the podcast that celebrates the wit wisdom and élan of early women photographers.

I'm your host, Lee McIntyre. 

In today's episode I'm going to take you to the slightly surreal world of nineteenth century photographer Hannah Maynard.

More information about any of the materials discussed in today's snapsheet can be found on my website, at p3podcast.clfoto.net, that's P, number 3, podcast dot C L F O T O.net.

In today's snapsheet you're invited to a slightly surreal tea party as we explore the experimental photography of 19th century photographer Hannah Maynard.

Hannah Maynard was born in England, but she moved to eastern Canada in the 1850s when her husband decided to move the family there so he could open up a shoe business in eastern Canada.

He later got gold fever and left Hannah Maynard and the kids in eastern Canada while he went west to see what fortunes he could find.

While she was alone with the children, Hannan took herself off to a photography studio and asked the photographer to teach her how to be a studio photographer. So, by the time her husband came back and announced that the family would be moving to Victoria in British Columbia, well, Hannah Maynard had made up her mind to become a photographer. 

In 1862 she opened up a studio in Victoria, British Columbia, that she ran for the next fifty years. 

She was very successful doing both landscape photography as well as a lot of studio photography. Her specialty in the beginning was really taking images of children, and she photographed children in that town, as I said, for fifty years. 

Even though she was doing studio photos which were of a particular type, she was experimenting in ways that other photographers didn't do: incorporating mirrors into her photos early on, taking reflections of the people but also using mirrors to represent water; posing the children as though they were at the edge of a pond in the middle of a forest, using backdrops to illustrate the forest and the mirrors to illustrate the water.  

She used a variety of equipment and techniques over the years. In the 1880s she used a style called Gem photography, which was a very particular small scale photo that allowed you to put it easily into a piece of jewelry, like a locket or something like that. 

Not only did she market these kinds of images for jewelry, she also used them for yearly advertising for her business in the 1880s, creating something she called the Gems of British Columbia.  These are collages that are creative montages of all the images of the children that she'd taken during the previous year, but arranged in some sort of scene or depiction of an object. For example, the year of the queen's jubilee in the mid 1880s, Hannah Maynard takes all of the images that she take in that year and arranges all of the faces in the shape of the queen's crown. 

She also has images where there's a fountain and the children's faces are flowing out of the water of the fountain. She incorporates the idea of the mirrored images creating reflections of the children seated by the water. This is all done in the darkroom, painstakingly constructing these montages year after year, and incorporating the previous year's montage [as well],  so at the end of ten years her final montage, her final Gem of British Columbia, contains twenty two thousand images of children. 

Now in the 1890s she starts to experiment more with multiple exposures, some of which are slightly surreal.  I think my favorite photo is really one that I call the "Mad Tea Party". Now when you look at it a quick glance, it looks like it's the depiction of three women having a tea party in a 19th century Victorian parlor:

- There's a woman on the left-hand side pouring the tea,

- There's a woman on the right-hand side holding a teacup, and 

- There's a woman in the middle of the table. 

But then we realize, well — wait,  that woman in the middle, she's not actually *at* the table, she's in a photo that's framed *above* the table that's hanging on the wall.  

But she's not just *in* the frame,  she's actually leaning *out* of the frame. She's got a teacup at her hand, and she is dumping the contents of her teacup on the woman who is seated at the right hand side of the table.

That's all surreal enough, but then you realize that all three of the women are Hannah Maynard herself. She has taken three images of herself and incorporated them seamlessly into this image that seems to show three women at the same table. 

It's really amazing. I mean you can do multiple exposures today on the computer in the "digital darkroom,"  but it's hard to actually manipulate them so that they're seamlessly integrated. The lighting has to be just right or you have to manipulate them just so. On a computer that's hard to do, and so I really tip my hat to Hannah Maynard for doing this so well in the darkroom in the 1890s.

Now in the late 1890s, Hannah Maynard goes to work to become the official Victoria police department photographer, where she's responsible for taking mug shots of the people under arrest. And so she devises a particular style of mugshot using a mirror, where in a single image she's able to take not just the full view of the face but also the profile, in one image, saving film and saving time when taking the images. It's an innovation that unfortunately doesn't seem to have been picked up by other police photographers, but it really was something that Hannah Maynard contributed to the field back then. 

Now, I have seen her mentioned in a couple of books on women photographers, but I hadn't ever seen anything about her cleverness and such creativity until I ran across a book called "The Magic Box". And I really want to recommend that if you can find a copy of that book, it has a lot more examples of her cleverness and her creativity, and the way in which she was able to go beyond the boundaries of photography in late 1800s and really see what photography could be all about.

So we think about doing creative things with our images — taking selfies,  doing things in Instagram — we can actually learn a lot from looking back to see what Hannah Maynard was able to do back in the 19th century.

Now in the show notes for today's episode, I'll include not only a copy of that "Mad Tea Party" photo I described, but also some more of Hannah Maynard's multiple exposure works, so  you can see just how surreal she got there in the 1890s.

All this will be available on my website at p3.clfoto.net, that's letter p, number 3, dot clfoto.net. 

Well that's it for today. Thanks for stopping by. My name's Lee McIntyre, and this is Photographs, Pistols, and Parasols.

All images ©2007-2015  L. Lee McIntyre, unless otherwise noted. No material may be used without permission.