Backgrounds: The White Backdrop

Though the painted backdrop was seen throughout romantic fantasy postcards of the 1900s and 1910s, the pure white backdrop appears to have been introduced only in the early 1920s. White backdrops were hardly new to photography; commercial photographers had been using them since the days of daguerreotypes. Perhaps the earlier postcard makers had avoided using them specifically because of the “studio portrait” connotation. These kinds of postcards were not intended to be portraits of individual people. The models were merely illustrations, even stand-ins for the people sending the cards. Even when the white backdrop was adopted, the studio appearance was given a touch of fantasy–every postcard had a blush of bright colour airbrushed onto one corner.

ars 5258 (191x300) carmen 126 - Copy (195x300) carmen 184 hi def (192x300)

The white backdrop appears only to have been used for tinted postcards; I have not yet found an example of a toned postcard with a completely solid backdrop. The period of their popularity was limited as well. The majority in the collection date from 1923-1927, with only two later outliers. It is likely the taste for the white-backdrop-with-colour-blush, only begun in the early 1920s, had already faded by the later years of the decade.

Solid white backgrounds were occasionally used in postcards from the early 1930s; by then, however, they lack the colour blush.

  PP 321 (188x300)

Next: The outdoor setting

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