Portrait photographs of individuals posed with a photograph of another person are unique. Yet, they were made throughout the 19th century, observes Doug York, who has assembled a collection of more than 200 examples that range from daguerreotypes to cabinet cards.
York calls them PIPs, or photos in photos,
When he first began collecting these images, York recalls, “I was mostly told by people that they were death-related memorial photos or mourning photos.” He agrees there can be no question that many fall into this category. But as he began to study them and consider their origins, another theory emerged: The sitter posed with a photo of a faraway family member or friend, then sent it to them as a reminder that distance was no obstacle to love or friendship.
In a sense, these photographs defied space, and recorded the memory of a bond that might be preserved for eternity. This connection, however, does not always feature another person, as York learned. He has discovered images of people holding photographs of buildings and animals. And, in one special example, a woman poses with a photograph of another woman who holds a photo—a PIP in a PIP.
Here is a selection of representative images from York’s collection.