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The Photographs of Lewis Carroll

The Photographs of Lewis Carroll
A Catalogue Raisonné

With nearly 1,000 images, many never before published, this catalogue raisonné presents and describes every surviving photograph taken by Lewis Carroll and confirms his stature as one of the most important amateur photographers of the Victorian era and the period’s finest photographer of children.

August 2015
Active (available)
$125.00
334 pages | 9.75 x 12 | 961 duotones |
ISBN: 
978-0-292-76743-0

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Description: 

Renowned for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) was also one of the most important amateur photographers of the Victorian era and the period’s finest photographer of children. From 1856 to 1880, Carroll took around three thousand pictures, the majority of which were portraits of family, friends, and colleagues. He also sought out and photographed celebrities of the day, including Alfred Tennyson, Samuel Wilberforce, Michael Faraday, William Holman Hunt, Henry Taylor, George MacDonald, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, Ellen Terry, John Everett Millais, Charlotte Yonge, and Prince Leopold. Carroll’s remaining output includes images of landscapes and architecture, works of art, and skeletons; assisted self-portraits; and other miscellaneous pictures. Today, his photographs are highly prized and fetch enormous prices at auction.

This catalogue raisonné presents images of the nearly one thousand surviving photographs of Lewis Carroll—including many from private collections that have never been published—and provides information on their subjects/sitters, their locations, and the dates when they were taken, as well as extracts from Carroll’s private diaries that mention his relevant photographic activity and background information concerning known prints. Edward Wakeling, an internationally recognized Carrollian scholar, has also reconstructed Carroll’s lost register of his complete photographic opus. In addition to the catalogue, Wakeling discusses Carroll’s activity as a photographer, his contacts with other Victorian art photographers, and his nude studies, and he provides a full listing of the contents of Carroll’s various photographic albums. This is the most comprehensive study of Carroll’s photography ever produced, and it will be a standard work for anyone studying Victorian photography and for Lewis Carroll’s photographs in particular.

Contents: 

Foreword by Elisabeth Mead

Acknowledgments

Introduction. "Mystic, Awful Was the Process": Charles L. Dodgson, Victorian Photographer

Collection Abbreviations and Short Titles

Catalogue Raisonné

Appendices

  1. The Life of C. L. Dodgson: A Chronology
  2. Surviving Glass-Plate Negatives
  3. Photograph Albums and Handwritten Lists of Contents
  4. Cabinet Card Sets
  5. Nude Studies
  6. C. L. Dodgson and Contemporary Photographers

Selected Bibliography

Index

Author: 

Edward Wakeling, a mathematician, is a former chairman of the Lewis Carroll Society in the United Kingdom and has been an active member for some forty years. He is also a member of various Lewis Carroll societies around the world. Wakeling has published many books and articles about Lewis Carroll, including Lewis Carroll, Photographer and the first complete unabridged edition of Lewis Carroll’s Diaries, which he edited in ten volumes.

Excerpts: 

Introduction

“Mystic, Awful Was the Process”

Charles L. Dodgson, Victorian Photographer

From his shoulder Hiawatha
Took the camera of rosewood,
Made of sliding, folding rosewood;
Neatly put it all together.
In its case it lay compactly,
Folded into nearly nothing;
But he opened out the hinges,
Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges,
Till it looked all squares and oblongs,
Like a complicated figure
In the Second Book of Euclid.

This he perched upon a tripod—
Crouched beneath its dusky cover—
Stretched his hand, enforcing silence—
Said, “Be motionless, I beg you!”
Mystic, awful was the process.

So begins a parody of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 poem “The Song of Hiawatha” in which Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, writing under his more familiar pen name of Lewis Carroll in 1857, explains the complexities of photography. Announced to the world in 1839, photography was first publicly displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851. This new scientific discovery must have astounded the thousands of people who visited the exhibition, C. L. Dodgson among them. In March of that same year, the wet-plate collodion process, which replaced the daguerrotype, had been invented by an Englishman, Frederick Scott Archer (1813–1857), and it was free from restrictive patents. From 1854, after various counter-claims concerning the ownership of the invention were overturned, amateur and commercial photographers chose the wet-plate process as the preferred option for taking photographs. Around this time, a group of photographic enthusiasts established the Photographic Society of London, and began to organize exhibitions showing the range and diversity of photographs made using this new process.

Two of Dodgson’s close acquaintances had already taken up photography as a hobby. The first was his favorite uncle, Robert Wilfred Skeffington Lutwidge (1802–1873), and the second his friend and colleague at Christ Church, Reginald Southey (1835–1899), who was studying science and medicine. Both men had purchased cameras and the necessary equipment for making and developing photographs. Dodgson’s interest was aroused. He was fascinated by this scientific advance and could see its potential for artistic expression.

The first mention of photography in Dodgson’s diary as an activity to pursue came on March 1, 1855, when he wrote, “. . . I went to look at Southey’s photographs: he has done a very successful one of the Broad Walk from his window—about the best amateur attempt that I have seen.”On September 8, 1855, Dodgson recorded a visit made by Uncle Skeffington to the Dodgson family home in Croft. Dodgson watched with fascination as his uncle attempted to photograph Croft Church, the bridge which crosses the River Tees, and various local scenes. Dodgson noted that the pictures were not very successful, and we get an inkling that he probably felt he could do better, given the chance. Two days later, Dodgson went with his uncle to take photographs in nearby Richmond. Any desire he might have had to take up the activity himself was put on hold, however, as he had just been appointed mathematical lecturer at Christ Church, and there was much to do in preparation for this new role.

On January 16 of the following year Dodgson wrote in his diary, “Called on Southey, and asked him to come over on Friday for a photographic day.” Two days later he added, “Southey came over to spend the day in photography, but we went instead to Dr. Diamond of the Surrey Lunatic Asylum: he gave me two he has done lately, an excellent full length of Uncle Skeffington, and a boy at King’s College, Frank Forester.”Dodgson now mingled with this new fraternity—the amateur photographers of London. Uncle Skeffington was already making his name as a photographer of architecture and scenic views, some of which he had exhibited. Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond (1809–1886), resident superintendent of female patients at the Surrey County Asylum, was Secretary of the Photographic Society of London, established in 1853. Inspired by the visit with Dr. Diamond, and now the owner of two of Diamond ’s photographs, Dodgson decided to try his own hand at the mysterious medium.

Taking Up the Camera

Dodgson made the following entry in his diary on January 22, 1856: “Wrote to ask Uncle Skeffington to get me a photographic apparatus, as I want some occupation here [other] than mere reading and writing.”Uncle Skeffington did not respond to this request; instead, with Southey’s help, Dodgson made the purchase himself. Together they traveled to London and ordered a camera from Ottewill & Co. in Charlotte Street, off the Caledonian Road. Dodgson wrote, “The camera with lens etc. will come to just about £15. I ordered it to be sent to Ch. Ch. [Christ Church] as it will not be ready in time to do anything this vacation.”The purchase of the camera and accessories, together with the chemicals and materials for making the glass-plate negatives and prints, demanded a considerable financial outlay for a young man just beginning his career, costing nearly the equivalent of one month’s salary.

Though it would be weeks before Dodgson’s own camera arrived, it was nevertheless through photography that he first met three little girls who were to have a profound effect on his life. He wrote in his diary on April 25, 1856,

Went over with Southey in the afternoon to the Deanery, to try and take a photograph of the Cathedral: both attempts proved failures. The three little girls were in the garden most of the time, and we became excellent friends: we tried to group them in the foreground of the picture, but they were not patient sitters. I mark this day with a white stone.

The diary entry was Dodgson’s first reference to Alice Liddell, who would inspire his best-known children’s stories. Dodgson had already met Harry and Lorina Liddell, the son and eldest daughter of Henry George Liddell, Dean of Christ Church. The three little girls in the garden were Lorina, sometimes called Lina or Ina, age six, and her two younger sisters: Alice, almost four, and Edith, two. The fact that Dodgson marked the day with a white stone is significant. Based on an ancient Roman custom, the practice was enacted to signify a special and enjoyable day, long to be remembered.

The following week was devoted to more photography. Dodgson recorded on April 28: “Deanery again in the afternoon. Southey tried the view of Merton from the walk before the house, a much more promising view as far as light goes, however all failed. The children were with us a good deal of the time.”And the next day: “Went over again with Southey to the Deanery about four, but all failed. Harry was with us most of the time, and Lina just at the end.”These frequent failures give us some idea of the difficulties that the process posed. Dodgson was determined to master all obstacles to become a proficient photographer. He began this process with the arrival of his Ottewill camera on May 1, 1856.

He immediately tried out the new camera by taking a few photographs with Southey’s exhausted chemicals, probably to practice the technique of coating and exposing plates. He still had much to learn. A week later, on May 8, he noted, “I spent the afternoon with Southey, photographing: he and I each took a portrait of Collyns, and, after several failures, he succeeded with my help in getting a good one of himself.”Dodgson recorded another photographic session with Southey on May 10: “Spent a great part of the day photographing with Southey, or rather looking on. He took Faussett, Hewitt, Harington, myself etc. . . . as it was so good a day for it, I went over to the Library, and called to Harry Liddell from the window, and got him to come over to Southey’s room. We had great difficulty in getting him to sit still long enough: he succeeded at last, by placing him in a bright light, in getting a fair profile.”Three days later, Dodgson noted in his diary a visit to the Dean: “. . . to show him Harry’s likeness and Southey’s book of photographs: he asked me to stay luncheon, and Mrs. Liddell proposed to bring over Harry again: Southey agreed to try him, and got one tolerable picture and several failures. The party, consisting of Mrs. Liddell, her mother Mrs. Reeves, and Harry were over in Southey’s rooms about an hour. . . . Southey spent a long time making up developing fluid etc. for me, so that I am now ready to begin the art.”

On May 16, 1856, Dodgson noted: “Took several likenesses in the day, but all more or less failures.”On June 3 he recorded, “Spent the morning at the Deanery, photographing the children.”There is no record of these early photographs of the Liddells beyond Dodgson’s diary entry, suggesting they were unsuccessful.

Dodgson traveled to London on June 7 to spend some time with his Uncle Hassard Hume Dodgson and Aunt Caroline Dodgson in Putney, taking his new photographic equipment with him. On June 9 he traveled to central London to consult the photographic dealer, Thomas Ottewill, about his camera lens, which was causing some difficulties. With these problems resolved, he returned to Putney and began a photographic session that involved his cousins and their friends. Apart from two assisted self-portraits, the earliest surviving photographs taken by Dodgson are of his cousins Lucy Caroline Dodgson and Francis Hume Dodgson. These were included in two albums Dodgson assembled for family and friends, but have never before been published.16 On June 19, 1856, while Dodgson was still staying with his cousins in Putney, their friends the Murdochs came over to be photographed. Dodgson took pictures of Kate, Millicent, and Alice Murdoch, and a number of group photographs of the Murdochs and Dodgsons. For the youngest child, Alice Murdoch, Dodgson composed a few lines of verse (see the catalogue raisonné, in-0053).

The juxtaposition of photograph with poem tells us that Dodgson saw his albums as artistic and aesthetic expressions of his photographic and literary energies. Photography for him was both artistic and technical: the image was carefully composed and he sought the highest technical perfection to achieve the best artistic result. He was determined to make a success of his new hobby. With practice, he soon became very proficient at taking photographs. He set himself very high standards in both the technical aspects of his new pastime and the artistic results he aimed to achieve. At the end of 1856, when he was twenty-four years old, he recorded this resolution in his diary: “I hope to make good progress in Photography in the Easter Vacation: it is my one recreation, and I think should be done well.”

Developing a Personal Style

Dodgson experimented with a variety of subjects early in his photographic career before settling on portraits as his principal artistic genre. At the end of June 1856, Dodgson took his camera to Croft, Yorkshire, and began a series of photographs that included his father, brothers, sisters, and visiting relatives, as well as the rectory and the local school, suggesting an early interest in both portraits and architectural studies. Dodgson’s willingness to transport the cumbersome photographic equipment from place to place also shows his eagerness to try photographing in different locations and to meet sitters at their own homes. Early in July he took his camera and accessories to photograph his Wilcox cousins in Whitburn, near Sunderland. While there, he made photographic reproductions of paintings and engravings. He brought his camera to the Lake District, where he made a number of portraits and landscapes, and later to Whitby on the Yorkshire coast, where he photographed Charles Thomas Longley, Bishop of Ripon, and took some scenic views.

On his return to Oxford for the Michaelmas Term (the autumn period of study), he began a series of photographs of his colleagues and fellow dons at Christ Church. His objective was, without doubt, to put together a photographic register of the key men at his college. He even offered to purchase an album for his portraits so that they could be kept in the Common Room.

A group of skeletal specimens, photographed in June 1857, stands out amongst his other works. Dr. Henry Acland, professor of medicine at Oxford, asked Dodgson and Southey to photograph the specimens in the Christ Church Anatomy School before they were moved to the new University Museum, then under construction. Dodgson took pictures of an apteryx, an anteater, a sunfish, a tunny-fish (now known as a tuna), a cod ’s head, and other fish and animal skeletons. Dodgson offered his photographs of these specimens for sale during the great Darwinian debate between Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Oxford, and Professor Thomas Henry Huxley at the University Museum in June 1860.

Several of Britain’s most distinguished artists, scientists, and theologians attended the debate, and Dodgson saw an opportunity to acquire some celebrity portraits. He invited some of them to Christ Church to have their photographs taken. In the years that followed, he continued to seek introduction to celebrated artists, actors, poets, writers, politicians, and churchmen of his day. He used his albums to show examples of his photographic art and skill. In September 1857, he learned that the poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whom he greatly admired, was staying in the Lake District. Dodgson followed him there, ultimately gaining entrée through a photograph he had made earlier of Tennyson’s niece, Agnes Grace Weld, in the guise of “Little Red Riding-Hood (see in-0275).” The strategy was a success, and Dodgson was subsequently invited to photograph Tennyson and his family. After his initial exploration into other modes, it was portraiture that ultimately occupied his photographic imagination.

Establishing a Studio

Dodgson soon realized that he needed a permanent studio for his portraits. Up to this time he had used the Deanery Garden at Christ Church and the homes of his various sitters. The opportunity arose for him to hire some rooms at Badcock’s Yard, just across the road from Christ Church, at six pounds a year. William Badcock (1799–1884) was the proprietor of a furniture store and general retailer with premises in St. Aldates, with accommodation to spare. Dodgson recorded on April 22, 1863: “Then called at Badcock’s to see if his yard will do for photographing. I think myself it will, but have written to ask Mr. Rejlander to come over and give advice about it.”19 We don’t know if Oscar Rejlander came and gave his advice, but we do know that Dodgson hired the rooms and took his first photograph at Badcock’s Yard on June 18, 1863, a portrait of a Mrs. Wethered. The studio was used by Dodgson until 1871. However, he continued to transport his camera around the country, visiting the homes of family and friends. Dodgson installed furniture in his studio for the comfort of his subjects, preferring his portraits to be uncluttered (without drapes, painted backdrops, and other extraneous items such as pillars or vases of flowers).

When Dodgson moved to new rooms at Christ Church in 1868, he discovered the potential of building a new studio on the roof, conveniently behind a Tudor chimney stack and not visible from either the Quad or the Street. He wrote in his diary on June 21, 1868: “My present task is to arrange for the necessary alterations in Lord Bute ’s rooms, before moving into them, as I have settled to do. There seems a bare possibility of my erecting a photographing room on the top, accessible from the rooms, which would be indeed a luxury, and as I am paying £6 a year rent for my present one, I should soon save a good deal of the outlay.”20 Dodgson gained permission from the College authorities and the studio was constructed. It was accessed by a stairway within Dodgson’s rooms, and it consisted of a room for photography and a dressing room for his sitters. Dodgson also arranged to have the studio heated, thus extending the time he could use it for photographic purposes. Dodgson took his first photograph in the new studio on March 17, 1872, a portrait of Julia Arnold. Apart from two trips made with his camera to the home of Henry Holiday at Hampstead, London, in 1875, and the home of the Thresher family at Winchester, later the same year, all his photographs were thereafter taken in his rooftop studio at Christ Church.

Photographer of Children

Dodgson found his friendships with children especially rewarding. The easy rapport he shared with his young friends is evident in his portraits of them, and it is on the quality of these portraits that his legacy principally rests.

We know that on one occasion—according to Dodgson’s first biographer, his nephew Stuart Collingwood—Dodgson showed the poet laureate a picture of Alice Liddell costumed as a beggar child. Tennyson is said to have remarked that it was the most beautiful photograph he had ever seen. There is some doubt about which picture Tennyson saw, because Dodgson made two portraits of Alice dressed in rags. The first was taken in 1857 when Alice was five. In a letter to Mrs. Tennyson dated June 4, 1859, Dodgson wrote: “I am thinking of sending a print of my photograph of Hallam . . . to be coloured by the artist whose handiwork you saw a specimen of in the ‘Beggar-child.’”The picture of Alice as a “beggar-maid” (a print of which was hand-colored) was taken in 1858, a year later. Dodgson’s second portrait of Alice Liddell as a “beggarmaid” is probably one of the best-known portraits he ever took (see in-0354). It has certainly been reproduced many times, and has been misinterpreted just as often. Alice, age six although she looks older, is, to modern eyes, very seductive as she looks straight at the camera lens, her head slightly tilted. The off-theshoulder rags, and the way she cups her hands in front of her, are viewed as sexually suggestive. This is, of course, not what Dodgson had in mind. We look with modern, post-Freudian eyes and see an image that Dodgson did not intend. The Victorians were class-conscious but found it difficult to comprehend the depths of despair that poverty brought to the lower classes. In order to rationalize the situation, it was common to sentimentalize the individual while ignoring the circumstances. They could pity the poor little match-girl while finding no way of addressing the problem. Many writers and artists used beggar children in their work to feed the sentimental appetites of the upper classes, and Dodgson was no exception. He took several photographs of upper-class children dressed in rags. The constraints of the photographic process made it important for Alice to hold her hands cupped in her lap rather than outstretched, seeking money; slight movements during the exposure time would ruin the picture. It is, nevertheless, an extraordinary picture. Dodgson also photographed Alice in her best dress (see in-0356), as a companion piece to the photo of the beggar-maid, highlighting the contrast between the poor and those born to the upper classes of society. Alice seems a very natural model for Dodgson’s camera; this came from the rapport that existed between the two of them, a rapport that is not so evident between Dodgson and the other two sisters.

The portrait of Alice seated in profile was taken at the same time as the “beggar-maid” picture (see in-0355). It is a confident pose for a six-year-old child: comfortable with her photographer and enjoying the personal attention she is receiving. She does not mind the long exposure time; she cooperates fully. Alice in later life reminisced that “being photographed was a joy and not a penance as it is to most children,” citing the endless store of fantastical tales that Dodgson would tell to amuse his sitters.Compare Dodgson’s photographic compositions of Alice with the pictures he took of her sisters. A photograph of Lorina playing a small guitar, taken in 1860, shows her with eyes cast down, a little self-conscious (see in-0546). And Alice ’s younger sister, Edith, did not appear to like having her photograph taken at all. She often looked decidedly uncomfortable, clearly wishing to be somewhere other than in front of Dodgson’s lens.

Despite the prevailing impression that Dodgson solely photographed young girls, one quarter of his known photographs of children are of boys. Dodgson did take more photographs of girls than boys, and the reasons for this imbalance were, in part, circumstantial; boys were usually away at school while girls were educated at home.

During the summers of 1858 and 1859, however, Dodgson visited Twyford School in Hampshire and photographed many of the boys and masters. Harry Liddell was a pupil there at the time, as was Dodgson’s younger brother Edwin. One of these photographs included the headmaster, George Kitchin, with a class of younger boys. Another photograph of five older boys from Twyford School, standing casually with their arms across each other’s shoulders, exemplifies Dodgson’s careful attention to figure arrangement and overall composition (see in-0392).

Of the girls Dodgson photographed, one particular favorite was George Kitchin’s daughter Alexandra, or “Xie.” Dodgson is known to have photographed her almost fifty times, from the time she was five years old until she was sixteen. According to the artist Henry Holiday, Dodgson asked “if I knew how to obtain excellence in a photograph. I gave it up.” Dodgson’s answer was, “Take a lens and put Xie before it”(“Xie-lens” or “excellence”). Dodgson photographed Xie in a variety of poses, sometimes in the “dressing-up” costumes that became characteristic of his pictures during this period.

On occasion, Dodgson took nude or semi-nude studies. At most, thirty such pictures can be identified from his diary and letters, amounting to probably no more than 1 percent of his total output of photographs. In all cases, permission had been given by the parents, and in some cases the request had originated with the parents; the children were very young (prepubescent); Dodgson gave the glass-plate negatives to the parents and kept a single print for himself, which he instructed his executors to destroy upon his death; and the total number of families involved was no more than eight (for more details, see appendix 5). In his own mind he saw a naked child as being something close to sacred: innocent beauty in a spirit of reverence. He was not alone in this viewpoint; many Victorians, particularly artists, shared this opinion. Children were seen as close to angels, and the high infant mortality rate caused many parents, particularly those who could afford it, to wish to obtain some permanent image of their child either as a painting, sculpture, or photograph, on the chance that their infant would not survive beyond childhood.

Creating a Register of Photographs

Dodgson made various attempts to record his photographs in a systematic way throughout the twenty-five years in which he was engaged in photography, usually scratching a number on the glass-plates. There is evidence of different forms of recording these numbers, but since Dodgson himself occasionally cleaned plates to re-use them, and some were broken, this approach was not used consistently and did not provide a register of all the photographs he had taken. The lists of contents to his various albums recorded some of his photographic opus, and photographic days were usually noted in his diaries. But Dodgson was not satisfied with his earlier approaches to recording, and after twenty years of taking photographs he decided that he wanted a complete register of every photograph he had taken.

During the summer of 1875, Dodgson spent weeks sorting out the collection of glass-plate negatives and albumen prints he had accumulated. He wrote in his diary on July 31, “The week has gone in registering and arranging photos, at about 10 hours work per day.”A more detailed account appears in an entry dated August 7/8, 1875:

Another week has gone exactly like the last, in photographic registering etc. and going through and destroying old letters. I have now got the alphabetical index of negatives arranged and nearly complete, written up the chronological register nearly to date, numbered, by it, all unmounted prints and mounted cartes and cabinets, and arranged them, numbered nearly all mounted in albums, and entered in the register references to them, and gone through all the 4¼ × 3¼ and 6 × 5 negatives by means of the register, erasing some, finding places for others, and making out an order for new prints to be done by Hills and Saunders. I find I must adopt some plan to keep the negatives from damp: shut-up boxes have ruined many of my best. I think of having all the lids removed, and the sides of the boxes and the panels of the cupboard, pierced with holes. The remaining photo business is to go through the 7¼ × 6¼, 8½ × 6½, and 10 × 8 negatives, to select some more cabinets or “show” bundles, and a bundle of “show” cartes, to mount on larger cards some of the new prints, also for show. The mounting prints in albums I leave for the winter. I hope to get all done this week.

This diary entry reveals much about Dodgson’s photographic activity, demonstrating that he was as systematic in organizing his photographs as he was with his letters. He mentions both an alphabetical index and a chronological register for his negatives. Dodgson entered each photograph into the register according to the order of the photographic session, identifying it by date and subject. The registration number assigned to that image could then be inscribed on corresponding prints. Multiple prints from the same negative, whether printed by Dodgson or a commercial firm, were all assigned the same registration number. Thereafter, new negatives were assigned numbers that continued the revised system. Most prints after 1875 have a registration number on the verso written neatly in Dodgson’s hand in the upper right corner. The highest surviving number is 2662, taken on June 15, 1880, but Dodgson’s diaries indicate that he subsequently took several more photographs.

The retrospective nature of this major organizational undertaking caused Dodgson to make some mistakes. Occasionally two prints from the same negative were assigned different numbers. When images were discovered that should have been entered at an earlier point in the chronological sequence, some were given fractional numbers. At one point in the process Dodgson left out an entire year, from July 1864 to July 1865. On discovering this omission, rather than starting again, he introduced an alternative system of numbering, using the prefix “P” and returning to number one. P009 is the lowest number to survive, and P091 is the highest, suggesting that about one hundred photographs constitute this “missing year.”

Dodgson’s chronological register and alphabetical index are now both missing, presumably lost or destroyed by the Dodgson family many years ago. Fortunately, enough of Dodgson’s prints have survived, along with his diaries, to enable an approximate reconstruction. The reconstituted image numbers are included in each entry of this catalogue raisonné. The table above provides an estimated range of numbers assigned by Dodgson for each year he photographed, and the total number of images he registered for each year. Taking into consideration the fractional numbers assigned to some images, the estimated total over the course of his career is 2,800. Efforts to compile a complete record of Dodgson’s photographic opus are ongoing, and as new information comes to light, revisions to this data are likely. Nevertheless, the table provides a useful overview of Dodgson’s photographic activity.

Giving Up the Camera

Dodgson gave up photography in July 1880; he packed away his photographic equipment as he always did before going to Eastbourne for the summer season, and never unpacked it again. Entries in Dodgson’s diary indicate that he wanted more time for literary projects. He cited the same reason for giving up his mathematical lectureship in 1881, taking early retirement at the age of forty-nine. This gave him more time, but did not affect his status at Christ Church. He retained his studentship, which entitled him to keep his rooms at the college.

The most likely reason for Dodgson giving up photography, which he himself cites in at least two subsequent letters, is the effort of getting out the photographic equipment, preparing the studio, purchasing chemicals, and engaging in all the other preparations needed before he could start taking photographs. And it was a burden he decided to give up. He knew that if he wanted to have a photograph taken, he could take a sitter to a local photographer and have the task done for him. He certainly took advantage of the growing number of photographers in every town for this purpose, especially when he was on holiday in Eastbourne. In a letter dated December 8, 1881, to Mrs. Gertrude Hunt, a solicitor’s wife from whom he had borrowed costumes for photographic purposes, he wrote:

The last photograph I took was in August, 1880! Not one have I done this year as there was no subject tempting enough to make me face the labour of getting the studio into working order again. . . . It is a very tiring amusement, and anything which can be equally well, or better, done in a professional studio for a few shillings I would always rather have so done than go through the labour myself.

By this time Dodgson’s reputation as a photographer was already assured. This catalogue raisonné demonstrates his extraordinary accomplishment over twenty-five years, and reveals why he is now regarded as one of the most important photographers of the Victorian era, and the period ’s finest photographer of children.

Reviews: 

“Edward Wakeling is widely acknowledged as a world authority on Lewis Carroll, with his dedication to reconstituting the chronology of Dodgson’s photographic practice over the past fifteen years setting him apart from all other specialists. His catalogue raisonné is a welcome addition as it makes a significant contribution to the field and will become the standard reference work that will underpin future research and scholarship.”
Roger Taylor, Emeritus Professor of Photographic History, De Montfort University, Leicester