Di Bello 2007

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di Bello, Patrizia. Women's Albums and Photography in Victorian England. Ashgate, 2007.

“Women’s albums operated as tactile as much as visual objects. They juxtapose photographic images and other mnemonic traces, always pointing to something that no longer is — as it was when photographed — with the hear-and-now of tactile experience: holding and turning pages, marked by the touch of the women who arranged them. To understand these albums we need to consider not only the visual, but also the tactile culture of the period. Both are crucial to my understanding of albums not as useless, quaint and old-fashioned, but as a thoroughly modern collecting practice which placed an important role in the construction of the genteel identity of women and their families. One of the most striking features of these albums is their use of collage techniques, which was common in the period. Cutting out photographs and printed or other images to recontextualize them in albums was consonant with women’s role as arrangers of the domestic interior, purchasing decorative objects and materials to recontextualise them in their own drawing rooms. But, as I argue throughout, this use of collage also had the potential to destabilize the semantic work allocated to albums by dominant culture. Cutting out and pasting paper-images was not only one of the feminine accomplishments signaling status and gentility, but could also produce ambiguous results. This ambiguity was not only visual, but also gestural: collage at once cuts and repairs, fragments and makes whole again. In the albums I discuss, these cuts and wounds are never fully resolved, never fully ‘healed’, into a smooth continuous surface, neither physically nor conceptually.” (3)

The Family Album, the Feminine and the Personal

albums are rich in sentimental value, but poor in exhibition value (10)

Clementina Hawarden's prints had to be removed from albums to be given to V&A and displayed in museum space; corners still bear tears

"In histories of photography, modes of collecting and siplaying photographs, associated with the domestic and feminine space of home, are ignored or played down when the intention is to valorise the photographer, the images or the medium. Museological practicalities -- prints need to be taken off the album to be exhibited as art -- become a value system: to see prints in an album is to se them as not-art." (11)

album the primary mode of collecting, not the museum exhibit, in early photography

Anna Atkins Photographs of British Algae and Henry Fox Talbots The Pencil of Nature closer to albums then today's books of photographs (13)

Nineteenth-Century Album Culture

1825 friendship album of Anna Birkbeck with contributions from many famous writers: https://birkbeck.lunaimaging.com/luna/servlet/detail/BIRKBECKBCM~15~15~56317~110283:The-Album-of-Anna-Birkbeck%3Fsort%3Dtitle%252Csubject?qvq=sort:title%2Csubject;lc:BIRKBECKBCM~15~15&mi=0&trs=1

on the term album 30-31 -- "belong t a broad category of containers of miscellaneous items, such as repositories, cabinets, and magazines, defined by what is placed in them" (30)

"Albums acquired disirable genteel connotations because they were collected by high-rank women -- even if theirs was a rank due to intellectual achievement, rather than title, as in the case of the Birkbecks. Album-making and collecting was one of the attributes of a lady's fmininity, or of a lady-like femininity potentially available to all women. As such, it was eagerly taken up and re-presented by a mass culture keen to service the general desire to know about genteel lifestyles, and so circulated to an audience that included less well connected middle-class women." (33)

"Higonnet argues that a tradition of women making albums using their drawing and watercolour skills, was replaced during the 19c by the use of commercial images in the form of mass-produced prints and photographs. This, however, neglects the fact that the collections made by women had always mixed material that was bought or commissioned from professionals with items that were made by the women themselves or by friends." (35-7)

18c, print rooms becoming common in fashionable wealthy houses (37)

grangerizing books (37-8)

"In print rooms, folios or in the smaller space of the album, women's collections of images often combined material from different sources and in a variety of media. Images could be hand-made or mechnically reproduced, original or copied. Visual and conceptual skills of selecting and arranging were asa valuued as the more manual accomplishments of drawing, paointing, and cutting out complex shapes with a precise hand,." (38)

"The album publicizes the interiority of the woman of the house by making it visible. Unlike diaries, albums, however personal, have no connotations of secrecy. They represent culture as performed in a private sphere, but for display to friends and visitors. The private here signals not only the domestic nature of the space in which the album is worked on an exhibited, buut also the non-public, non-commercial exchanges between the album collector and the people whose traces (signatures, poems or drawings) are collected." (41) -- autographs should be penned directly on page, so evident not bought from dealer

from 1825ish on, readymade printed albums of materials for reworking (42) -- known as annuals, most coming out annually in November, to coincide with the market for New Year gifts -- sometimes known as "gift books," "drawing room books," or "picture books" in reviews and advertisements, kind of like coffee table books today

most popular was Keepsake, published by Charles Heather between 1828 and 1857

images chosen first, then texts fill out the images

Fisher's Drawing Room Scrap-Book, illustrated with portraite of Princess Victoria, captioned with engraved signature, as if she had personally owned or given as a gift the publication

brief mention of Jacquard loom portraits (49)

Photographs, Albums, Women's Magazines

by 1863, photography a "regular presence in womens' magazines" (54)

many photographs printed from line engravings, with tagline "from a photograph"

"As photographic collections had become more common, this was a way for elite women to mark their albums with their superior accompolishements. As lsehwere, commerce followed fashionable elite women, and by the late 1870s printers were selling empty photographic albums already decorated with mechanically reproduced landscapes or flowery frames, into which the owner's photographs could be slotted. Printers imitated the style of hand-decorated albums, to produce mechanically-reproduced versions for the benefit of those less accomplished or time-rich." (75)

Melancholic Portrait Gazers

The Waterlow Album, family photographs

connection between motherhood/maternity and photography

Photographs, Fun and Flirtations

photographer owned negative, so once celebrity was photographed could sell carte-de-visite to others

"The pleasures of being photographed resided not in the correspondence of the portrait with one's own sense of self, or with some kind of truth about the inner qualities of the portrayed, but in participating in a real or imaginary public sphere, through the social games engendered by the photographic album." (111)

Lady Filmer's album -- carte-de-visits, locket print, and watercolors laid out like a game of cards on the page

scene of making an album, presented among other feminine accomplishments (114)

other mixed media photography albums by upperclass women, mid-1850s to later 1870s (116-7)

mixed media albums tend to "recontextualise and decorate photographs, supposedly the most realistic of media, to create abstract patterns and fantastic scenarios" (118)

collages as fantasy, undermining realism of the photograph -- photography "on the pages of these albums, is therefor robbed of its modernity" (123)

"we can read the hand decoration of albums around this period as a case of accomplished women using photographs to give a fashionable makeover to the traditional album, but also using feminine accomplishments to mark the photographs as genteel. The crafts used might have been, as Bermingham argues, no longer commercially viable for artisans, but this is precisely what gave them value as a commodity -- a 'lady's touch' -- not avilable on the market. The album page, made with photographic images that were no longer exclusive, became exclusive again because of its arrangement and decorations." (126)

not (just) feminine albums but society albums (127)

"Cutting photographs to recontextualise them in painted arrangements seems to modernise and celebrate upper-class feminine culture as capable of manipulating mass culture to more discerning, amusing, and semiologically open ends than the 'uneducated and unpolished' classes would be able to do." (134)

"flirtatious dynamic" of exchanging portraits with the prince (136)