Origins of ordinary things: Photo albums

Before camera phones, facebook, Instagram and other modern innovations came to be, making use of photograph albums was the best way to keep memories alive.

The earliest photo albums, according to Sarah Bosch a researcher, were produced in 1860, two decades after Louis Daguerre, a French artist and photographer, introduced a ground-breaking photo developing process.

The first photo albums had a capacity of approximately forty-eight (48) photos and the first page was used often for putting a genealogical tree.

Photographs and corresponding albums were originally majorly ownedbythe rich because making photographs was an expensive and tedious process.

However, poor people were so determined to have their photographs taken that they would save money from their meagre earnings because they too wanted to have their special memories preserved. This is discussed by Michael Hett, a writer, in the article “The rise and rise of family photographs.”

As the process of making photographs became less expensive, the price of photographs went down. People started taking photos more frequently. The introduction of digital cameras further increased the practice of taking photos. Albums in homes started piling up.

After a while, photo albums were not just for keeping a few precious memories alive. They could be now used for storing photographic evidence and keeping cutouts from style magazines. Sometimes, people folded and stored documents such as letters in the compartments. In other words, photo albums started to lose their sentimental value.

However, until the recent past, keeping photos in the living room to serve as a source of entertainment for visitors was common practice. It hasn’t completely faded but in elite homes, people are now more likely to be preoccupied with watching television or flipping through their phones. In comparison, flipping through album pages to see photos might be regarded as tedious and unentertaining.

Because of digital migration, photo albums are being phased out. They are now reserved for photographs of special occasions such as weddings.

People can now take as many photos as they want and upload them on social media and have access to them anytime, anywhere. They don’t have to worry about bulk, losing photos to hazards such as fire or even spending on having them developed by professional photographers.

But the digital photo albums, unlike the physical photo albums, seem to serve as a statement of status rather than an effort to preserve memories.