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Lafayette L1598b
Neg. Date:
copyright V&A

Daisy, Princess of Pless (1873-1943)

In this image from the same photographic session, Daisy is standing with an ostrich feather fan. Very unusually for the Princess of Pless, her loosely fitting dress and stance fail to highlight her minute waist.

The extant four negatives show clearly how a sitter, even in a fancy dress, might go through a variety of poses and use various studio props in an effort to add some dynamism to the photograph. In the case of Daisy’s session, it could be surmised that she was directing the shoot rather than the photographer

The Times informs us that Daisy was also photographed on the night of the ball. Newspapers of the time went to great lengths to conform to the rules of rank and precedence which were so seriously adhered to and after stating that “many of the guests at the Duchess of Devonshire’s fancy dress ball on Friday were photographed at Devonshire-house by M. Lafayette”, the newspaper lists Princess Henry of Pless — below the Duchesses of Teck and Devonshire, but above Lady Randolph Churchill.

In a published interview with James Lafayette, he admitted that his presence at the Devonshire House Ball had done wonders for his business, and explained how he managed this great outdoor operation:

“I erected a temporary studio in the garden, with a powerful installation of electric light; and though it may sound immodest to say so, the appearance of ‘a gay photographer’ at such a function was considered highly original, and was openly spoken of as a feature of the historic occasion.

I arranged 200 sittings in four and a half hours [i.e. 1 minute 21 seconds per sitting]. It was a positive feat of physical endurance, but the fame that followed has amply repaid me.”