by Doctor Science
The Kensington and Chelsea Library system (in London) has been posting clandestine street photos taken by Edward Linley Sambourne in the early 20th century. It's not clear if Sambourne had a fetish for taking pictures of women who didn't know they were being photographed or if these were intended as reference photos for his cartoons, but they are *fascinating*. What really strikes me is how women's postures and gaits are much more modern than I expected.
Sambourne took similar photos when he was on vacation in Paris:
Compare it to this well-known picture:
Notice how in the painting the woman is curvier, more ornamental. She doesn't stand up as straight nor stride as long as the woman in the photo.
I've searched and searched, and I can't find *any* paintings of turn-of-the-century women striding down the street, or even just walking with an easy upright posture.
Even when Sambourne photographed precisely the sort of scene painters liked:
the women's postures aren't what we normally see in paintings. Women in paintings are shown with their weight too far forward and with their stride much too short, leading to scenes like this:
-- she's going to fall on her face, you know.
What I hadn't visually expected was how comfortably women *strode* even in garments that to me look heavy and awkward. I also hadn't realize how much women's posture is depicted as curving toward men. Even standing up straight is shown as "defiant" or otherwise posed -- while these photos show women standing up straight yet relaxed, because this is how they stand.
It's visual proof that in paintings and other "staged" representations women are always shown with reference to men. Even when there's no man in the picture, he's there implicitly, as the artist or viewer: what we call the "Male Gaze".
But in reality women mostly just stride or shamble along without presenting themselves for any gaze in particular -- and that was true even in the Olden Dayes.