Friday, May 6, 2011

Trends in the Goan studio wedding portrait (1962- 2006)

My parents Sebastian and Ezilda (P.Gomes studio)
My parents Sebastian and Ezilda 1962 P.Gomes studio, Mumbai. Aslo seated in the group are my aunts Linda and Anju.
Anju and Bernard (portrait taken at Souza Paul in Goa in the 70's)
Sebastian and Linda (portrait taken in 1972 at the Mumbai at P. Gomes studio, Dhobitalao)

Jason and Anette in my studio, Portrait Atelier, Goa 2006
I was rummaging through my father’s B&W photo albums when I came across fascinating studio portraits of some of my family members. These photographs often involved a trip to the studio and the portrait was made by a specialist photographer, to commemorate special occasions like weddings, first holy communions etc. There were other opportunities for family portraits as well, like on festive days, when the all the members of the family dressed up formally for church and later also made a trip to the photographer after mass.
I found the wedding portraits of particular interesting, In this particular the portrait of my parents Sebastian and Ezilda was done on their wedding day in September of 1962, at the P. Gomes studio, in Kalbadevi, Mumbai.  Portraits,  in those days where done using photo flood lamps and lighting effect was supposed to complement the kind of  theater  background that were painted to represent some sort of Victorian mansion. Exposure times being slow, the sitters were requested by the photographer to remain as still as possible. I am not sure of the camera and film details (possibly glass plates), In the days of film, photographers hung on to their negatives as part of their business strategy.
The two brides maids in my parents’ group wedding portrait is my father’s youngest sister, my aunt Linda (seated second on my father’s left), and one of  my  mother’s younger sisters (seated second on my mother’s right) is my aunt Angelina.
I also happened to come across in the studio wedding portraits of both Linda and Angelina. Linda, who married Sebastian Dias in 1972 also had their wedding portrait done in Mumbai 10 years later  at the P. Gomes studio at Kalbadevi in Mumbai. 
The painted back ground scene of the 60’s had gone and a seamless background was in its place. I am also quite certain that by this time that sheet film had taken the place of glass plate negatives. As a young boy, I recall that photographers in those days used to retouch negatives on a light box specially designed to hold single negatives. If you look at the prints closely, the faces in the portrait are retouched for a lighter skin tone with photo opaque liquid directly on to the negative.
Angelina’s wedding to Bernard Nunes was in Goa. The portrait was also done in the 70’s at Souza & Paul, Panjim, Goa.

2006, Portrait Atelier, Goa. 
The only studio portrait I ever made of a family member (this was done post wedding), was that of my cousin Jason (Linda and Sebastian’s second son) and his wife Annette. 
Electronic flash and modern lighting systems had changed the look of the studio portrait. I encourage sitters to be more expressive with gestures and pose when I do wedding portrait nowadays. Of course I don’t shoot film any more, it’s all digital , including a little bit of Photoshop retouching that took the place of  retouching prints and  negatives.


  1. Hi Alex, that is really interesting and a lot of research could be done on that single studio in Kalbadevi. Janaki Abraham of JNU Sociology dept has done an interesting project on the marriage videos and albums of the Thiya community in Kerala. Also, Surekha Sharada in Bangalore had done an extensive works on the marriage photographs.... It is good that you posted this during occasion of royal wedding...Waiting to see more from your family albums and the the retakes in your studio...

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