The Amateur Model
With little formal art training, an
obsessive passion for accurate detail and the need to work to tight
deadlines, Linley Sambourne turned to photography in the 1880s, the
perfect tool for an artist in a hurry. Initially Sambourne relied
upon friends, family, visitors and servants to model for him.
The King of Selfies!
The most enthusiastic amateur model
was Linley Sambourne himself. From his earliest experiments with
the camera he posed with an assistant operating the shutter. Such
was his attention to detail, Sambourne would often ‘rough-out’ the
image, positioning himself in place of the intended sitter. The
results are often highly amusing, as Linley squeezed himself into
costumes hired for somebody else.
The household typically comprised three staff; cook, parlourmaid
and groom. Of the six grooms whom Sambourne employed from 1882
until his death, Jolley and Otley appear to been most adept at
posing for photographs, given the considerable number of images of
images they appear in.
Marion’s diaries record the impact of photography on family life
and disturbance of daily routines as Linley's intensified his
activities. Many entries relate to the inconvenience cause by the
removal of furniture to the yards to serve as props or the
discovery that servants had neglected household tasks as Linley had
required them to model, the latter particularly vexing Marion who
already thought Linley's
The Kindness of Strangers
Sambourne was quite happy to ask complete strangers to pose for
him. Occasionally these direct requests led to a longer association
with the sitter as was the case with local policeman Stace. Stace
had a distinctive portly figure which Sambourne was able to use in
a variety guises, and cast him in roles such as WG Grace or
Bismark. Sambourne paid all his amateur models, although Stace came
close to being semi-professional as, even after he had retired from
the police, Sambourne paid for him to travel from his Balham home
to model at 18 Stafford Terrace. During the period 1888-1901 Stace
made over 20 visits to the Sambourne's amounting to his appearing
in hundreds of photographs.
Linley's family weren't excused from modelling for him, in the
case of the Sambourne's children Maud and Roy they were
photographed throughout much of their childhood up to young
As to be expected from someone who didn't share her husband’s
enthusiasm for her husband’s hobby, Marion is the family member
that appears least in Sambourne's images. She was normally called
upon for images that required a certain matronly bearing such as
the 'Old Lady of Threadneedle Street'.