PDN Photo of the Day

Scrapbook Stories of Love and War

Scrapbook Love Story: Memory and the Vernacular Photo Album, an exhibition of albums and scrapbooks from the 1890s to the early 1970s, is currently on view at The Walther Collection Project Space in New York. Compiled by everyday makers, photo albums – each a distinct object – record experiences in love, war, friendship, and domestic tranquility.

“Albums have always been a central vehicle for representing and unifying collective memories and social identities,” writes the gallery in a statement, noting that, “the photo album is perhaps the most familiar format for viewing 20th century photography.”

Scrapbook Love Story features over 20 albums, including those strictly comprised of regimented family portraits, to scrapbook narratives full of spontaneity and artful composition. For example, one album contains the obsessive experiences of serviceman Richard Hicks Bowman during and after World War II, vividly illustrated with brightly colored stamps and souvenirs. Another describes a blossoming college romance through a hodgepodge of heartfelt correspondence and memorabilia—a lasting record of one couple’s courtship and hopeful future.

These diverse volumes demonstrate a lively and heartfelt engagement between photographers and ­subjects who are willing to pose or enact spontaneous performances. The albums also highlight the makers’ creativity in arranging, cutting, and collaging images and texts. “This act of compiling signals an innovation in autobiographical storytelling, in which everyday images could be appropriated, reassembled, and concretized into vibrant narratives,” explains the gallery.

Prefiguring today’s all-encompassing digital narratives, these vernacular scrapbooks and photo albums capture a modernist impulse to document and to archive fragments of our everyday lives.

As part of of the exhibition, an international symposium on vernacular photography will be held at Columbia University’s Lenfest Center for the Arts on October 19 and 20, 2018. 

Scrapbook Love Story: Memory and the Vernacular Photo Album
The Walther Collection Project Space
New York, New York
Through December 15, 2018

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