Publishers of Frances and Mary’s work typically sought photographs that took advantage of Deerfield. On occasion, they had more unusual requests. When garden writer Frances Duncan of Cornish, New Hampshire, requested that Mary illustrate a “pot-boilerish” story she was writing, Mary convinced her niece Eunice to pose.( 23.Eunice Allen) Eunice Allen. “caught the dramatic view- and from an eminently cheerful healthy looking young woman relaxed herself into a limp invalid with hollows in her cheeks- gazing listlessly out of window- Not a catchy idea for a cover- by my ideas.” Mary’s photograph, captioned “The Neuransthenic Victim,” printed in jolting color on the February 1913 cover of The Garden Magazine, is droll in its artificiality.
Deerfielders served as willing models for the Allen sisters. Frances and Mary sought out certain types for character studies: innocent-looking country children, young women with hair swept up in a knot, older women, and men with beards. Interesting countenances and the ability to pose unselfconsciously were required of all their models. For their pre-1904 photographs, their own elderly mother and aunts often posed. In an interview, Mary commented on the ease of finding young models: “‘They are very willing subjects,’ says Miss Allen, ‘I pay one cent a pose and I can assure you they frequently carry away quite a small sum when they go home. We never have any difficulty in obtaining subjects. Deerfield is full of them, anywhere on the village street you will meet people you have seen in our photographs.’” William and Lucy Andrews’ ten children, who lived across the street from the Allens between 1902 and 1924, were ideal models. The Andrews were a hardworking farm family with little money. The Allen sisters found the children’s bedraggled clothes and bare feet more picturesque than the well-pressed frocks of affluent children. Since their mother was deaf, the Andrews children communicated with the Allens with greater ease than did most children. Dorothy Andrews Parmeter later remembered “The Misses Allen were patient and good with children.”
Magazine illustration was critical to the success of the Allens’ commercial photography business throughout the 1910s. In November 1918, an Allen niece told a neighbor that “the aunts have eleven National magazines using their pictures this month.”
Photographs courtesy of Memorial Hall Museum, Deerfield, MA.