Thoughts on the photograph as historical artefact

The subject of this post comes from a juxtaposition of two ideas that I came across recently. The first is this Lenscratch article by Alina Smithson and in particular the opening sentence of this quote:


Alongside this, I read a fellow student’s blog. Warren Jones is doing Level 2 Landscape, and this exercise used old postcards of his childhood village to remind him of his childhood activities. At various points in my photography journey, I have tried taking up to date photographs of places which were photographed in the past, to compare them, and it is something I may come back to later in the course. An example is shown below:

 The Pitchens, 1930 and 2016

Without the old images, it would not be possible to see how places transform over time, and it is important to make records for future generations. However, although an enjoyable and interesting activity from the local history point of view, these only say something about the changing landscape. We need people in them to show how places and fashions have altered and to tell their stories. There’s an excellent short OU Openlearn MOOC about old photos and what we can learn from them here, called Picturing the Family, which has plenty of useful information on what we can learn from the physical image itself (possibly a subject for another post) and from the subjects’ clothing and pose. Thanks to fellow student Lynda Kuit for bringing it to my attention.


Smithson, Aline.(2016)  The Future Perfect at the ICP and Photoville  In Lenscratch. At Accessed on 19 .09.2016) (accessed on 19.09.2016)



8 thoughts on “Thoughts on the photograph as historical artefact

  1. Simon Chirgwin

    I really like the idea of time pooling from the flood of life… Stephen Shore’s thought on his own Uncommon Places is good on this too. I’ll look for the link when I’ve access to better connectivity than via my phone on the tube…


      1. Simon Chirgwin

        It is (and interesting in light of the number of places [Tod Papageorge, Geoff Dyer etc] that poetry and photography appear to overlap more readily than photography and prose)…

        And now for the link – (which also is interesting in terms of your thoughts elsewhere about street and black and white…


      2. Holly Woodward Post author

        Thanks for the link, Simon. I will look at it when my current road trip is finished. It is interesting about the link between photography and poetry. I’m not normally someone who writes poetry but even I have felt drawn towards adding words to some of my work.


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