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Oscar Rejlander

Oscar Rejlander

Oscar Rejlander, from artist to photographer demonstrates in the photograph entitled ‘Hard Times’ how photographers can be artist in the darkroom as well with the camera. The overall scenes is of a 1860 lower class family with the troubles and tribulations of the era, who appears to live in a one bedroom house/apartment, in which everyone shares the same bed or they take it in turn to sleep.

Oscar Rejlander was a Swedish photographer working in England, Rejlander was noted for his allegorical compositions made with the technique of “combination printing” in which he joined multiple negatives to form a single image. The most famous of these, The Two Ways of Life (1857) shows two young men on either side of an elder sage; one young man is turning towards representa- tions of religion, charity, and industry while the other towards gambling and licentiousness, which end in suicide and death. The final print of the picture measures 16 x 31 inches and was compiled from individual photographs Rejlander made of groups of costumed people he hired and photographed at scales appropriate to the distance at which they would appear to the spectator of such a scene.


The Two Ways of Life (1857)

Oscar Rejlander’s albumen print “Hard Times,” is a depiction two different relationships between an adult male, adult woman and two young kids. The artist must have felt that by including young children and infants in his photography, stronger and purer feelings of emotion would awaken. Double exposure is used in Hard Times to provide contradictory emotions and issues based on subject and setting.
“Among the many momentous social transformations generated by photography’s invention was the possibility of self-representation by a large variety of groups previously excluded from official portraiture. Seamstresses, carpenters, actors, gold miners, and even the recently deceased all sat for their official portraits, leaving behind an extremely valuable record of their anonymous, if not invisible, lives”

“Hard Times” ca 1860

Hard life

“Hard Times” ca 1860

The father holds his tool firmly in his hand as if he is guarding his lively hood from others who wish to steal. Yet the double exposure shows a loving scene in which the children are playing on the bed, the mother appears to loving hold the father, and the father appears to be very patient with everyone, yet still has the trials and tribulations resting on his shoulders which are hunched down with the weight of responsibility. It appears all the responsibility is on the father, he’s the hunter and gather, he’s the centre of attention in the whole scene.




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