Ernest Baudoux (1828-1897), born in France, was a prominent and prolific photographer in Jersey from 1869 to 1887. He made his living as a portraitist, and taking pictures of affluent islanders' houses. He also took a large number of pictures documenting outdoor Jersey in the 1870-80s
Originally from France, Ernest Baudoux (1828-1897) worked in Jersey from 1869 at 11 Craig Street and 51½, 56 and 59 New Street. In 1885 he was joined in business by his son, but two years later they sold out to John Stroud, a young photographer from London, who in turn sold his business, including many of Baudoux's glass-plate negatives, to Albert Smith. Some of these photographs have been attributed incorrectly to Smith and the Photographic Archive of La Société Jersiaise have a project under way to attempt to correctly identify who took each of the 3000-plus images in their collection attributed to Smith.
There are 1385 photographs by Baudoux available on line from the Société's archive. They are mainly portraits, which was the photographer's speciality. Many of his portraits exist in two versions, one of them retouched to hide facial blemishes and wrinkles. Baudoux also undertook photographic commissions of clients' houses and, working with his sons, he photographed views of the island.
He was the first significant chronicler of island life in images, a role which was later to be taken up by Albert Smith, which explains why there is doubt over who actually took some of the images attributed to Smith. The gallery below shows the diversity of subjects captured by his lens; from the portraits which were the bread-and-butter of an early professional photographer, to scenes of the island and pictures of major events in the mid-Victorian era.
La Société say that of a total of 3298 images attributed to the Albert Smith studio in their archive, they estimate that as many as 500 are in fact by Ernest Baudoux. "In some cases image content instantly corrects an attribution; others can be more challenging. Useful information exists in multiple forms including: original negative references and inscriptions; process; format; costume; uniforms; architecture. The process is ongoing. What is clear is that Baudoux was highly skilled with the wet collodion negative and carbon print processes, both of which were difficult to master but offered rewards of great quality."
Many of the surviving Baudoux carte de visite photographs used the Chromotype process, also known as "carbon printing". These produced a sepia tone print with a metallic-like finish. The sepia toning survives as a much stronger colour than paper sepiatone prints of the same age, which fade badly, but the Chromotype prints are easily scratched. The process was patented in 1864 by an Englishman, Joseph Swan, but used mostly by the French. It required a licence, so the photographs were more expensive than ordinary paper cartes de visite mounted on card and did not become particularly popular.
In carbon printing a sheet of paper is coated with light-sensitive gelatin containing a pigment, usually carbon. The sheet is then exposed to daylight under a negative. The process is difficult and laborious, making carbon prints about twice as expensive as platinum and up to five times more costly than silver. Because pigments are used instead of dyes, the prints last longer than those made by any other process.
Baudoux images are very collectable, and frequently appear for sale on on-line auction sites. In addition to the Societe Collection, there are two large collections of Jersey photographs and postcards in South Africa and the United States, to which Jerripedia has access. This has enabled us to build up a substantial gallery of Baudoux images, some of which are shown below, others being located on appropriate subject pages.
Baudoux's work was of the highest quality, and many of the surviving images are in superb collection. The portraits, most of which have names inscribed on the backs (although often only surnames, so that it is difficult to link pictures to particular families) are supreme examples of the Victorian art of photographic portraiture. They convey the fashions of the time, both in clothing and hairstyles.
Usually the subjects wore their best clothes for the portrait sessions. For the ladies in the 1870s and 80s, this meant long black dresses. The fashion for white dresses, which would be almost universally worn in public later on, did not emerge until much closer to the end of the century.
It was also common for children, and sometimes adults, to be photographed wearing fancy dress. Sailor suits were particulaly popular for boys.
If the subjects of the images appear rather dour this is easily explained. They would have to hold their pose for a lengthy period, which is why they can often be seen posing with their arms folded and supported on the back of a chair, or a firm cushion. Staring blankly at the camera for the required time was relatively easily accomplished, whereas holding a smile was impossible.
Baudoux's was easily the most prolific Jersey studio. He seems to have drawn his clients mainly from the Jersey born and French speaking population. During his last year of operation he opened a branch establishment in Guernsey.
He numbered his photos and using a few dated photographs, information gleaned from the backstamps, and the photographer's addresses given in their adverts in the almanacs, the photos of Baudoux can be dated quite closely.
The studio address was 56 New Street from 1869 – 1875, the latest negative number known at that address being 14045. It is not known whether the negative numbers started at 1 or some other number. Only one negative number earlier than 10,000 is known, and that is in a different hand and place on the photo than the later ones, so may not be a photographers number. All the earliest photos have no numbers.
The address was 59 New Street from 1876 – 1887; the earliest negative number is 14439, the latest known is 36532. Very few photos have no number. From 1885 – 1887 the photos are marked Baudoux and Son. During these years he also had offices at 51½ New Street and 11 Craig Street.
A gallery of photographs by Ernest Baudoux from the 1870s and '80s
Progression of backs of photographs
Battle of Jersey centenary celebrations in the Royal Square in 1881