Visual literacy, that is, “reading photographs” is vital skill for working with images. You can uncover a great deal of information by studying the visual elements of a photograph. For example, clothing and cars can often help you narrow down the time period of when an image was shot. Building and street signs can also help you identify locations. Additionally, it’s helpful to study the photograph as a physical object. For example, deciphering if a photograph is an albumen or gelatin silver print will also help narrow down dates. Determining the format of an image, e.g. stereograph vs. postcard, will help you understand the purpose and function of an image. Asking and answering such questions can reveal a wealth of information.
Then there are times when you read and reread a photograph and you are still left with unanswered questions. Such is the case with the Peter A. Juley & Son photographs listed below. These images have me stumped.
Happy photograph reading!