Charles Eisenmann Photographs “Freaks” In The 1870′s
In the 1870′s and 80′s, Charles Eisenmann had a studio in NY. Aside from shooting regular people, he had a passion for shooting ‘freaks’ as he would call it. In reality, these people were show people. Over his life span, he shot over 700 portraits and sold them as collectibles.
Clothed in stand collar uniforms and bustle dresses from the Victorian Era, each portrait is carefully directed to enhance the visual wonders of the models’ distinct physique.
You begin to wonder what type of lives these people lived, especially in that time period.
His history with these photographs adds to the mystery of it all:
Eisenmann’s photography was sold in the form of Cabinet cards, popular in this era, available to the middle class. The book Victorian Cartes-de-Visite credits Eisenmann with being the most prolific and well known photographer when it comes to Cabinet cards.
His work was the subject of a 1979 monograph, Monsters of the Gilded Age, focusing on his work on human oddities from the Barnum and Bailey circus, with a notable widely circulated picture of Jojo the Dog-faced Boy. Although a number of his photographs were of obvious fakes (called “gaffed freaks”), many others were genuinely anomalous, including the giant Ruth Goshen, the four-legged girl Myrtle Corbin, and the Siamese twins Chang and Eng and Millie Christine. (Source)
The stories that went along with some of the images were pretty interesting as well. You can see the full gallery and read a few of these stories here: