I bet the third guy had a tambourine in hand. Brothers perhaps?
I got it from another site I frequent and neglected to post the caption they had, which they got via the auction house selling hte piece:
ca. 1860’s, [hand tinted ambrotype portrait of a young banjo player with his two companions]
I could not find the image on the Gallery's site nor any more info. The auction house/site is out of West Virginia. If it is indeed an ambrotype that puts it more towards the time period of 1860s and earlier as ambros were more prevelent then, before tintypes started to take over, along with CDVs.
I'm confused as to why they wouldn't comb their hair? Because they are, or could be, minstrels? I've seen more images with men with combed hair in early photography rather than messed up.
The little boy's pants with the stripe- those don't seem like photographer's prop pants or costume pants...they seem to fit him well- were they part of a uniform perhaps?- a military/school or a band/corps uniform?
My gut feeling is 1880s and British. But I could be completely wrong. Does the banjo have more than five strings (also suggesting British)?
An ambrotype would suggest an earlier date, but it could also be a cased tintype (ferrotype). The manufacturing process is similar: emulsion on glass vs. emulsion on metal. Very different from daguerreotypes.
Yeah, it's very tough to tell a cased ambro from a cased tin on a computer screen. Have to hope whomever is looking at it in person (and who captioned it) knows the difference and how to tell it. If it wasn't for the mention of ambrotype I'd have zero doubts of an 1880s date. It does indeed look like the banjo has more than five strings, as Dan'l noticed it looks like 6.