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!
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.