Janet and Iris Laing, 1910

These autochromes were taken between 1910 and 1915. They show Janet and Iris Laing in their parents’ house and garden in Headington, Oxford.


The pictures were taken by the girls’ mother, Etheldreda Laing, an artist and photographer. Etheldreda died in 1960. In about 1930, Janet became the second wife of Howard Montagu Bulmer de Sales La Terriere. In 1958, Iris, aged 55, married Sir John Randolph Leslie, 3rd Baronet of Glaslough, becoming Lady Shane Leslie. She died in 1995.

Bury Knowle House is now a library, and the gardens are a park. The images are held by the Science Museum, through the Science and Society Library.

5 comments to Janet and Iris Laing, 1910

  • Melissa D.

    Perhaps it simply was not yet a convention to “Smile for the camera”, but these girls show such glum, sad expressions in every photo! While in such lovely, colorful surroundings even!

  • Ruth de Wynter

    These are absolutely gorgeous. It’s so strange & wonderful to see images from this era in colour. I could look at them for hours!

  • Chris

    That’s a good point, Melissa. The exposure time for an autochrome was “only” about one second, so it wasn’t the case that smiles would have been too difficult to hold over a long exposure. Having said that, smiling is rare in photographs up to this point, as people were used to long exposures, and it was easier to maintain a neutral expression rather than a smile.

    For myself, I don’t find Janet and Iris’ expressions to be sad or glum. I find their expressions to be very natural, self-assured and self contained, and I feel as if I am seeing the girls at their most natural Their mother Etheldreda was an artist, and the girls may have been very used to being drawn or photographed, and so they retain their natural expressions. “Smiling for the camera”, after all, means we have stepped out of the moment, and put on a version of ourselves for posterity…

  • Nicholas Hedges

    I live in Headington and have many memories of Bury Knowle Park as it is now. I’ve always wondered what it would have looked like when it was a private residence, so to see it and in colour is amazing. Thanks for showing them.

  • Glenn

    These photos are great. Iris and Janet’s home is now (100 years later) my local library, and their garden is where I go running! A strange coincidence and quite remarkable to see. Many thanks for sharing these images.

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