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Family Photo Albums of the 19th and 20th Centuries
Pages 20 (5020 words)
The photograph has become ubiquitous in the modern day. The ease of capturing visual images by disposable cameras and even portable telephones has forever changed the way Americans perceive and display family photography. In contrast to the people of the 19th Century, who witnessed the birth of the camera and its cloth-shrouded operator, experienced the fizzle and smoke of flash powder, and waited to actually view the resulting picture, the contemporary family thinks nothing of snapping an image and immediately viewing the result.
Where the 19th and 20th Centuries are similar is in the purpose of the family album. Regardless of the era, families have wanted to preserve and remember people and events with which they shared a common bond. Whether the picture was derived from a professionally-posed portrait in the Victorian era or a "parent...taking a snapshot of a child on holiday with an instamatic or throw-away camera," there has always been the expectation that there was a "restricted audience [for] the family album, to be viewed by close friends as well as present and future members of the family."1 The commonality of the album's purpose across both time periods is not derived from the method of photography, but from the reason for it. People take pictures and put them in family albums because they want to remember something about their lives. They want to document the history of their lineage or the development of their progeny. They want to take an image that represents one day or a series of events in their lives and share that memory with their friends and relatives in the present day; and they want future generations to be able to see it as well. ...
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