These photographs by Spencer Shier date back 100 years to 1916 and show us what ads looked like in those distant years. It was about the time of Gallipoli.
A young woman is proudly showing us a tin container of Robur tea with its amazing circular lid. How innovative. Her pose is familiar to advertising history, an attractive young woman smiling at us and pointing to the product. It’s a formula that survives to this day.
The apron is not part of modern publicity though. It has connotations to us of domestic drudgery, pre-feminist gender roles, or perhaps domestic help – she may be posing as a servant. In those times, many households above the level of working class had paid housekeepers.
The title listed on the Trove archive site is “Miss Diamond,” so the model was presumably a celebrity of some kind, a music hall singer perhaps? While she wears an apron here, in other portraits on the site she wears a lush fur coat that suggests wealth and success. Who was she?
Spencer Shier was a Melbourne photographer who specialized in portraits. He did well, living in a Toorak house at his death in 1946, a location that suggests commercial success and social standing. He specialized in society and celebrity portraits and advertising photography. He may be worthy of further research since many now forgotten photographers can be very interesting to us at this distance in time. Just look at his self-portrait. Spencer Shier, self-portrait, 1931