This funny series of old photographs features the slow transformation from sobriety to complete intoxication. Created by photographer Charles Percy Pickering, Five Stages of Inebriation is a hilarious way of showing how alcohol affects physical coordination. Across the five pictures, an upright, dignified gentleman slowly deteriorates into a sloppy drunk in a wheelbarrow.
The tiny prints, only a little larger than 2×3.5 inches, are mounted on a thicker paper card in the high-brow, trending style of carte-de-viste, or visiting cards. Roughly dated between 1863-1868, it is believed that each shot is a posed, studio portraits that was put together for educational purposes.
The New South Wales State Library website explains, “Possibly commissioned by a local temperance group for educative purposes, the photographs may also have been used by an engraver for illustrations. The penultimate frame of the drunk in a wheelbarrow resembles S.T. Gill’s watercolour ‘Ease without Opulence’, 1863.”