Vintage 101 :: "Man in the Moon" Photos

Last week I was uploading some of our wedding photos to *finally* get some prints to hang up at home, because, you know, it's only been two years. Perfectly reasonable amount of time to hang up some happiness. :)

Anyway, when I logged into my account, I saw a bunch of photos we printed for my grandma's birthday party a couple years ago, all black and white, from various stages of her youth. One of my favorites is her, her sister and one of their friends sitting for a "Man on the Moon" photo (pictured above), a sort of iconic setting I've seen a lot when looking at old photos. But it got my wheels turning...how did this photo fad start?

I did some digging around online, and found this Flickr discussion group that was asking the same question. One of the people commenting shared what he knew, saying it was an American trend that started in the late 19th century and reached its height of popularity in the 1920s. He also said the following about some of the sociology behind it:

"What I find really interesting about them is that they seem to have been a real departure from the formal studio portraits of the late nineteenth century. The portraits were cheap enough so that anybody could afford to have one taken. Besides studios, more informal "Man in the Moon" portrait booths could be found at arcades, carnivals and county fairs. Many of the people posing on the paper moons were obviously having a good time -- smiling and sometimes cavorting for the camera -- something that was almost never done in studio portraits of the day."

Another commenter has a theory that since these moon portraits were popular around the same time as the popular 1902 French black-and-white film A Trip to the Moon (which he/she said was influenced by the 1865 Jules Verne novel From the Earth to the Moon), that those two pop culture happenings might have had some influence as to how this backdrop ever came about. Seems pretty possible to me!

Do any of you have any family photos with this kind of backdrop? Or seen that movie? Or read that book? I'm kind of compelled to do a little reading and watching myself!

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