Anonymous, American Portrait of a Young African American Nanny and her White Charge
Medium Relievo Ambrotype,1/6 plate
Photo Date 1855-60
Dimensions 3.5 x 3 in. (89 x 76 mm)
Photo Country United States (USA)
Photographer Country United States (USA)
Contact Charles Schwartz
About This Image
A young black woman, possibly a slave, holds a white baby in her arms.
Relievo ambrotypes have a 3-dimensional quality, where the subject stands out in relief against the background.
This technique was introduced by a Glasgow photographer named Urie in 1854. An ambrotype was made in the usual way, but only the subject matter was varnished black (on the back side), and the whole background was carefully scraped away. Behind the picture was placed a piece of glass backed by white card. The photograph, being not quite in contact with the backing, cast a slight shadow on it, causing the figure to stand out in relief.
The relievo technique was rather uncommon. Photo studios might have used this process in order to distinguish themselves from the competition, or offer a more unique product.
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