The Photographer’s wife at the studio

In 1944, the French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954) published a short story called The Photographer’s Wife (La Dame du Photographe 1944), in which Mme Armand, the wife of the photographer – he who is referred to by their neighbour as “little old Big Eyes” – attempts suicide, some might think for an adulterous liaison, while she herself explains the reason as an unbearably trivial life. The drug she self-administers is not named, but at the moment when old Big Eyes raises the alarm, his hands are “all covered with hyposulphite” from a broken bottle in the studio. Hyposulphite was used in daguerreotype, ambrotype and collodion photography, one of several photochemicals including arsenic and cyanide with ready appeal to a self-poisoner. Elizabeth Rachel Day’s life as the wife of photographer Thomas J. Nevin in colonial Tasmania was very different from Colette’s literary portrait. However, from her marriage in 1871 until her husband’s residential appointment at the Hobart Town Hall in 1876, she lived and slept above a veritable factory of poisonous chemicals stored and used in her husband’s studio, a double-windowed building and glasshouse with the business name of The City Photographic Establishment, located at 140 Elizabeth St. Hobart. … More The Photographer’s wife at the studio