Teresa Williams' blog

A blog about photography and art, and how creativity is central to my well-being

Milly and Lily's photo album.

Paradise cottage, Mrs Fawsey and Lily (1929)

Paradise cottage, Mrs Fawsey and Lily (1929)

Recently I acquired an almost antique family photo album from an online auction. It consists of fifteen double-sided pages of photographs on brown paper, scrap book type. The cover is soft, and it is bound simply with beaded cord. On the front is printed the words ‘Photographs. British made.’ This album cost me £10, which is relatively little, considering the high prices that can sometimes be paid for such items.

Is it unusual to want to buy other people’s photo albums, from almost a hundred years ago? I find it fascinating to wonder how and why such once treasured possessions end up being thrown away, discarded, no longer loved or wanted. Any sentimentality towards them has long since gone. On the other hand, I can see the problems of hoarding decades of family memorabilia which become more distant with each new generation.

This particular album is annotated in neat white hand writing with names, dates and places. It seems to follow two young women (Milly and Lilly) as they travel around the south of England and Jersey between 1919 and 1931. There are other characters too, mainly women. I wonder who the photographer was, perhaps it was several family members. I am going to be creating new work out of this album, and the first step is to work out where some of the places are that they visited. I am hopeful that the cottage in the image below (iPhone screenshot from Google Earth) is the rear view of Paradise cottage today. I might have to visit it to find out for sure!

Screenshot from google maps

Screenshot from google maps

The ethics of buying and reusing old photographs is something which I thought, read, and talked a lot about during my photography MA. The images I have bought are mine to use as I wish…however I am mindful of the possibility that they could be seen by a distant relative and therefore think carefully about the way I present them.

I am going to be working with this album a lot over the next few months and am looking forward to getting started and finding out more about Lily, Milly and their adventures.

Dear Annie

Dear Annie, 1908

Dear Annie, 1908

I am interested in old photographs and postcards, the ones that people throw away, and am curious to know their history. The writing on the back is often as interesting as the front.. This week when I was tidying up I came across six postcards addressed to Annie Spencer. Four were from George in 1908, and two from friends a decade later. George sent his while serving on HMS Irresistible. I Googled this ship and found that it was commissioned in 1902 at Chatham Dockyard by Captain George Morris Henderson for Mediterranean fleet service (probably a very small likelihood of it being the same George!). The ship went to different parts of the world until it was hit by a naval mine in 1915, with the loss of several hundred lives.

I wonder what the relationship was between George and Annie - perhaps they were siblings, what do you think? The messages are brief and to the point. I wonder what happened to Annie between 1908 and 1918, and whether George survived the war. I originally purchased these cards with the intention of reworking them, but have decided against it - there’s not enough for me to work with. The fronts of the cards have photos of well known actors, actresses or music hall stars. The cards here feature Florence Smithson, Gladys Cooper (2), one of the seaside, and two of child actors with the captions ‘Moonlight lovers’ and ‘Love’s lightest burden’.

The transcriptions are below, with some words that I can’t read in brackets.

March 5th (postmarked Lowestoft)

D.A. Many thanks for your kind letter. Glad to hear that you are keeping well. Will (?) your letter when I get back. Hope you are having a good time. It is very quiet down here. With kindest love to you (?) George

12/3/08 HMS Irresistible Chatham

D.A

Many thanks for card. Hope to see you sometime on Saturday if all go well. Hope this finds you in the best of health, as it leaves me. With love to all at home. George

16/3/08 HMS Irresistible Chatham

D.A

I got back quite safe this morning + in good time. There was plenty of time for my train at Gravesend. I did not feel at all tired. How did you & (G?) get on when it was time to get up? I expect you were late. The weather here has been cold and since four it has turned to rain. Hope you are in the best if health, yours, George

17/4/08 HMS Irresistible (?) Scotland

Dear Annie. Many thanks for your letter. Will write soon. Hope you will be enjoying yourself this Easter. Hoping this will find you in the best of health as it leaves me. With kindest love (?) George

Postmark 4 Oct 18

Dear Annie

Except my best wishes for a Happy Birthday. Better late than never, with love Ethel

Postmark 5 Oct 18

Dear Annie

Accept my heartiest wishes for a happy birthday. With love from Elsie xxx

Post MA - new beginnings are daunting but definitely on the horizon

Sutton ‘64

Sutton ‘64

Yesterday I came across this photo of myself, aged one and a bit, and I see the resemblance with my grand daughter who is about the same age. On the back is written “Sutton ‘64” by my mother. The bottom left corner is creased - where it once was slotted into an album with ‘photo corners’. At some point it was removed from its original album and put into a new one. Do you wonder why? It seems fitting to be the first picture of my new blog - after all, much of my work has centred around the ‘family album’ (although not my own); and using archives to bring the past into the present.

It’s the last week of the school holidays, and for me today is the day of new beginnings as I try to work out some kind of new order to my creativity. The MA was time consuming, and already I am missing it! One of the things I really enjoyed was chatting regularly with peers and tutors about our work, getting critical feedback, and having a clear time-based plans. The results aren’t in yet, but as I wait, I am anxious to get on and not lose the momentum of creating new work, writing about it in a new way; and being proactive in sharing the hows, whats and whys.

One of the first things I intend to do is to create new work and show its progress, and I want to get going before I’m back to school next week. I can’t wait to get started!