Photograph “Three men and a dog (in a boat)”. c1900

From the Papers of Sir Fred Clarke. c1900

Every so often I come across an item in a collection I’m working on that just captures my imagination. I feel utterly enchanted by this scene of a life I can only imagine on this grey, dreary, February Friday morning.

Although I found the photograph in a box donated by the daughter of Sir Fred Clarke, I have absolutely no idea who these men are, and in a way that makes  the image all the better a subject for my day dreaming. I don’t have a date for it either, but from the style of shirts would give a very approximate date of c1900.

I love the ambiguity of images like this, there are so many questions we can ask, and clues we can take from the image. The view we have is the one of the photographer; who was he/she? Were they part of this party taking tea on the river from a silver tea pot? Not many “normal” people would have owned a camera at the time this was taken, did the men comission the photograph? Was it a special occasion? There are leaves on the trees, and the men have their shirt sleeves rolled up, so we can assume it’s summer, but where are they? So many questions.

I think I’ll go back to imagining being part of the scene, which I might like to rename “Afternoon tea on the river”.

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1 Response to Photograph “Three men and a dog (in a boat)”. c1900

  1. Antony says:

    The sepia tones certainly suggest a golden afternoon in the early twentieth century. I can’t help to identify the men, but the location is definitely near Folly Bridge in Oxford – see Andrew Gray’s contemporary photo at: which also features the building in the background and one of Salter’s Steamers. Your dating is almost spot on, as the boat in the picture ‘Marlow’ was built by Salters in 1901 (information from ship website:

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