In Lewis Carroll, Photographer: The Princeton University Library Albums, Roger Taylor and Edward Wakeling have compiled, for the first time, an invaluable accounting of Dodgson’s work as a photographer. Wakeling, a British Carroll scholar and former chairman of the Lewis Carroll Society, has prepared an illustrated catalogue of the entire Princeton collection, with detailed captions and historical facts, including Dodgson’s own captions. Dodgson himself did not begin to log his photographs or number them until 1875, by which time he had given up photography, and so his numbering system is a retrospective one. Once started, however, he went at it with conviction, devoting weeks of his life and up to ten hours per day to “photo writing.” It seems that he worked backward, beginning with the most recent pictures he had taken, estimating the range to be “2400 prints taken up to this time” (Wakeling estimates more like three thousand, roughly one-third of which survives today). Unfortunately, Dodgson’s register has been lost, and it is perhaps Wakeling’s invaluable contribution to have recatalogued and annotated the entire opus from scratch.
Lewis Carroll: Photographer presents, alongside complete reproductions of the four albums in the Princeton University Library, a comprehensive list of all of Dodgson’s works, including date, location, and subject.
Dodgson often illustrated his albums with other types of art – drawings and sketches - juxtaposing images with poetry. Sometimes the verse was of his own creation, sometimes it was borrowed from others whose work he admired, including Edward Lear, Longfellow, and Tennyson. One particularly brilliant touch was that he often invited the children to sign their name at the bottom of the print. Often in colored ink, usually violet, the childish scribble further enlivens the photograph. The awkward, beautiful handwriting of children that speaks of innocence and character, their struggle to sign as grown-ups, yet not quite making the mark.
Portraits of young girls do not make up the entirety of Dodgson’s work, of course. As both Lewis Carroll: Photographer and Douglas R. Nickel’s Dreaming in Pictures make clear, his sitters also included such notables as Alfred Lord Tennyson, Quentin Twiss, The Earl of Enniskillen, many Oxford dons and celebrities, and a smattering of local clergy and nobility. There are also portraits of his family members and the occasional landscape or object (in particular and anatomical skeletons from the museum at Christ Church). At the same time, the photographs of young girls comprise over fifty percent of his total output, and, more to the point, they represent the “child-friends,” subjects who mattered most to the photographer himself. They are also the images by which Dodgson’s photographic work is known to most of us, and by which he has been favorably – and unfavorably - judged.