Lewis Carroll
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (self-portrait), May 1875
Albumen print
Courtesy of the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Bradford

Lewis Carroll's children's books especially Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1871) are widely known and celebrated. Dreaming in Pictures: The Photography of Lewis Carroll, at the International Center of Photography, 1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street from June 6 through August 31, 2003, makes a new argument for Carroll's importance as a photographer. This exhibition of vintage albumen prints from the 1850's through the 1870's organized by Douglas R. Nickel, curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, is the first comprehensive American presentation of Lewis Carroll's remarkable photographic work in fifty years.

Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, an Oxford mathematics lecturer. He bought his first camera in 1856, the year he invented his pseudonym, and pursued photography in tandem with his writing and academic career. Dodgson's fame as an author has impeded previous discussions of his photographic interests, with his images having been cast as hobbyist creations rather than serious works of art. Dreaming in Pictures is the first exhibition to offer a critical assessment of his photographs from an art-historical perspective, revealing him as a uniquely talented visual artist.

 

Lewis Carroll
Xie Kitchin, ca. 1875
Albumen print
Collection of Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein
The 72 images featured in the exhibition focus on Dodgson's pictures of people, including enigmatic portraits of children -- perhaps his favorite subject -- and tableaux photographs. The latter, based on the tableaux vivants popular in the 19th century, involved costumed sitters posing in historical and allegorical scenes and described narratives familiar to a Victorian audience. The assembled works, mostly rare vintage prints drawn from a number of important public and private collections, demonstrate Dodgson's conception of the photograph as private theater. According to Nickel, "Carroll's photographs show the workings of his unique intelligence, underscoring his literary concerns with fantasy, dreaming, childhood innocence, and the power of the imagination, but they also illustrate a strain of Victorian photography that has been largely ignored by or suppressed in official histories of the medium. This exhibition offers the opportunity to examine both the individual and his times."
Lewis Carroll
Brook and Hugh Kitchin, 5 July 1876
Albumen print
Collection of Prentice and Paul Sack
Lewis Carroll
Julia Arnold, Seated on Unmade bed, ca. 1872
Albumen print
Courtesy Robert Koch Gallery
Lewis Carroll
Xie Kitchin (in Greek dress), 12 June 1873
Albumen print
Courtesy Robert Koch Gallery

Dodgson was raised in the countryside of Yorkshire, north of London, and moved to Oxford to attend Christ Church College in 1851. Following brilliant achievement in mathematics as an undergraduate, he was made a fellow and mathematics lecturer of the college in 1856. Early in Dodgson's academic career, photography became his great passion. With ever increasing seriousness, he established successively more elaborate and spacious studios, ultimately devoting more than 24 years to the medium and generating approximately 3,000 images.



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Publication: Available from the ICP Museum Store
Dreaming in Pictures: The Photography of Lewis Carroll (2002), co-published by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Yale University Press. This 172-page book features an essay by Douglas R. Nickel, annotated plate descriptions by Carroll expert Edward Wakeling, and 95 duotone illustrations. The plate section includes all 72 works in the exhibition.
Dreaming in Pictures: The Photography of Lewis Carroll is organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Support for this exhibition has been generously provided by John Jago Trelawney in memory of his aunt, Sallie Benfield.

The International Center of Photography presentation is made possible by The Hite Foundation with additional support from Lloyds TBS.