Hannah Maynard and her grandson, Maynard McDonald, in a tableau vivant composite photo (c. 1893)

by Kate Riddoch

photographer Hannah Maynard with her grandson Maynard McDonald
Hanna Maynard and her grandson, Maynard McDonald, in a tableau vivant composite photo, c. 1893. Image courtesy of the Royal BC Museum.

Sitting in a well-decorated portrait studio, surrounded by ornate chairs and painted partitions, a young boy dressed in a suit looks up at a bust-length statue of himself, which sits at the center of the photograph. Beside him stands an older woman in a black dress, who also sits at the far-left edge of the composition. She is flanked by three photographs of her daughters and daughter-in-law: Lillie Maynard, Adelaide Maynard, and Emma MacDonald, respectively.[1] At the time this photograph was created, all three of the women had passed away.

This complicated and surreal photograph was made by Victoria, BC photographer and portraitist, Hannah Maynard. Maynard used a variety of different techniques such as multiple exposures, photomontage, and statuary photography to achieve this work. Not only is this work representative of Maynard’s photographic style, but it is also representative of its time. This work reveals the attitudes of the Victorian era toward death, grief, and spirituality.

A Woman Photographer in Victoria
Hannah Maynard moved to Victoria from Bowmanville, Ontario in 1862, where she established Mrs. R. Maynard’s Photographic Gallery. She and her husband Richard immigrated to Bowmanville from Cornwall in 1952, where she trained in photography while he was away at the Gold Rush. Maynard primarily worked in portrait photography, making carte-de-visites, cabinet cards, and regular bust and full-length photos of her sitters, as well as occasionally working in landscape photography. Any photographs Maynard took of herself had to adhere to her established brand: a woman who was innovative and independent. Even in family photographs, she can be seen posing, not as a wife or mother, but as a professional businesswoman; in order to keep up her reputation. These self and family portraits also served as a way for Maynard to prove her skill to prospective clients. She also used her position within society to better understand what her clients wanted from her. Maynard took many photographs of young children and babies and was often praised for her naturalistic portraits of them. Maynard’s multiple exposure work was a turn away from the commercial and toward something more personal.
Process and Method
At the time that this work was made, the technology and information needed to create multiple-exposure photographs was readily available. Publications and magazines in both Europe and America were printing articles and tutorials on the topic[2]. This process was seen to some as taboo, as they created a type of photography that wasn’t an objective view of the world and acted more as an art form than a documentary tool.

In the case of Maynard, handcrafted lens covers were used to control which portions of the film were exposed, allowing for multiple versions of Maynard herself to exist in one image. This process allowed Maynard to shoot herself in a seated position, with only the left side of the frame exposed. Then the middle, with her grandson in a statuary state, this time covering both edges of the lens. Finally, the right side could be exposed, with both Maynard and her grandson present, and all but the necessary area exposed. This differs from her work with photomontage, in which she cut up and rephotographed other already existing photos.

This photograph, among the other multiple exposure works that Maynard made, has led to critics treating her more as an amateur, interested in experiments, than as a well-established photographer branching out into something new. Comparisons have also been drawn between Maynard and the work of both the Dadaists and Surrealists, with some claiming that she was “ahead of her time.”[3]

The statuesque images created by Maynard are also not an uncommon sight in her work. Created by covering the sitter’s hair, face and body in white powder or flour, the negative created was then scratched until only the desired body parts remained, depending on whether the statue was supposed to be full or bust length. This type of photograph was first created by Maynard in 1884, the year after her daughter, Lillie’s death.[4]

Victorian Spiritualism

The inspiration for this work can be traced back to the practice of Spiritualism in the Victorian era. Though Maynard didn’t leave any kind of record detailing her motivations for this work and, while she wasn’t known to be a devout spiritualist, the ties to a kind of spiritualism are still present.

There was a historical connection between the practice of multiple exposure and spirit photography. This is a technique in which ghostly forms are created in film photography by only exposing the film for a brief moment so that the form in front of the lens only partially develops. This would eventually lead to photographers using longer exposure times for their subjects, creating multiple exposures of them on one negative. While Maynard never worked in this style, she very likely would have been aware of it.

It is known, however, that Maynard did attend a séance in 1883, in the hope of being reconnected with Lillie. Her interest in death, grief, and spirituality can be seen in “Hannah Maynard and her grandson, Maynard McDonald, in a tableau vivant composite photo.”

The first indicator of this are the three photographs on the left side of the composition. Known as memento mori portraits, these depict three women in Maynard’s life who had passed away by the time this work was created. The inclusion of these, once the viewer can recognize as such, adds a dimension of sorrow to the work. It would have a quite different feel to it if this work were just multiple exposures of Maynard and her grandson.

The second element worth noting is the statuesque version of the artist’s grandson. As noted above, these only appeared in Maynard’s oeuvre after the death of Lillie. The fascinating thing about Maynard’s use of this technique is that she mostly applied it to children. Can it be read as a deliberate attempt to keep children frozen in time, in the moment of their youth, away from the horrors of the world? Or is it a commentary on Maynard’s grief for her lost children?


This work explores many emotional topics still relevant today: life and death, loss and growth, and endings and new beginnings. Though this photograph was a product of grief and loss, it brought to light new techniques and technologies. It proved that the ones we love are never that far away so long as we remember them. Scholars have posited as to exactly why Maynard began working in more experimental styles of photography. Some say that overwhelming grief caused a split in her psyche, while others argue her experimentation may have begun as an attempt to entertain her young grandson. No matter the rationale behind this work, it stands as a touchstone for this time and place in Canadian history.

References and Further Readings

Allen, Mary. “Situating Hannah Maynard: A Comparison with Hannah Höch.” History of Photography, 33, iss. 3 (2009): 237-248.

Atkinson, Maggie. “Between Eccentricity and Morbidity Hannah Maynard’s Multiples.” Religion and the Arts 26, no. 3 (2022): 317-336.

Bennett, Matt. “Totem and Tableaux: The Elegiac Photography of Hannah Maynard.” The International Journal of Literary Humanities 14, no. 4 (2016): 55-63.

Healey, Haley. “Hannah Maynard: Police Photographer and Entrepreneur.” In On Their Own Terms: True Stories of Trailblazing Women of Vancouver Island. Victoria: Heritage House, 2020.

Johnson, Monique L. “Montage and Multiples in Hannah Maynard’s Self-Portraits.” History of Photography, 41, iss. 2. (2017): 159-170.

Mattison, David. “The Multiple Self of Hannah Maynard.” Vanguard, 9, no. 8 (1980): 14-19.

Maxwell, Anne. “The Imaginative World of Hannah Maynard.” In Women Photographers of the Pacific World, 1857–1930, London: Routledge, 2020.

Rigby-Watson, Petra. “Hannah Maynard’s Multiple Exposures.” History of Photography 20, iss. 2 (1996): 155-157.

Rigby-Watson, Petra. The Photographs of Hannah Maynard: 19th century Portraits. Vancouver: Charles H Scott Gallery, 1992.

Salahub, Jennifer E. “A Textile Narrative Through the Eye of a Camera/Through the Eye of a Needle.” Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings (2006): 327.

Skidmore, Colleen. “The Maynard Studio: 1862-1912.” In Rare Merit: Women in Photography in Canada, 1840-1940. Vancouver; Toronto: UBC Press, 2022.

Wilks, Claire Weissman. The Magic Box: The Eccentric Genius of Hannah Maynard. Toronto: Exile Editions, 1980.

  1. Matt Bennett, "Totem and Tableaux: The Elegiac Photography of Hannah Maynard," The International Journal of Literary Humanities 14, no. 4 (2016): 59. doi: https://doi.org/10.18848/2327-7912/CGP/v14i04/55-63.
  2. Petra Rigby-Watson, "Hannah Maynard’s Multiple Exposures," History of Photography 20, no. 2 (1996): 155.
  3. Monique L Johnson, "Montage and Multiples in Hannah Maynard’s Self-Portraits," History of Photography 41, iss. 2 (2007): 159.
  4. Bennett, "Totem and Tableaux,” 58.


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