Depth of Field, volume 5, no 1 (December 2014)Maartje van den Heuvel: Reserved in Public but Extravagant in Domestic Circles: Fashion Photography from 1913 onward by Portrait Studio Merkelbach

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Abstract

The rise of fashion photography in the early twentieth century is currently receiving greater museum attention through an increasing number of exhibitions and catalogues. However, there is much that can be added to academic thinking and writing concerning this chapter of the history of photography. Recent research on the chic twentieth-century Portrait Studio Merkelbach in Amsterdam is an interesting case in this context. Its location on the floor immediately above the fashion house Hirsch & Cie – in its day a fashion sensation in the Dutch capital – brings one to the conclusion that Merkelbach profited from a flourishing practice of commercial fashion photography. Recent research into the newly digitized Merkelbach archives, as well as into Merkelbach's vintage prints preserved in the collections of Leiden University, the Theater Institute and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and elsewhere, reveals an entirely different situation. At the same time, this research indicates that the historiography of fashion photography, in addition to visual communication in the public realm e.g. advertising in shopping windows and printed magazines, should as well include another theme: photographs that depict women presenting themselves in various clothes and outfits, taken specifically for private use and circulated among family and friends.