Author’s Note: This was written for an assignment for CCM011 Heritage and Visual Culture: Identities, Technologies, and Location as a part of my MA in Heritage Studies at the University of East London. One of the requirements of the CW1: Visual Analysis assignment was to post the essay on a blog. The photo album described in the essay is owned by the London Metropolitan Archives and not myself.
Repository: London Metropolitan Archives
Reference Code: CLA/084/02
Collection: Jones, Ann Horatia
The album of Annie Horatia Jones is its own archive, carefully curated through its selection of photographs, its arrangement, and the choices made of what to keep and what to discard by Annie Horatia Jones herself. It can also be seen as a memory piece for a girl orphaned as a young girl, something that could spark her memory of her parents long after they passed. Victorian photography was often used as a memory keeper of people who predeceased the owner of the album. A photo album at its heart is a personal archive of those important to the owner (the curator), as well as a way to show others what and who has passed. It is a key to memory and a building block for a wider history.
The original owner of the album, Annie Horatia Jones, was born at 30 Devonshire Place, London on 29 August 1879. She was the daughter of Ann Jones, nee Patch, and Sir Horace Jones. Sir Horace was Architect and Surveyor for the City of London and President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, known for designing, amongst other things, Billingsgate Market, the Guildhall School of Music, and Tower Bridge. She was orphaned as a young girl and was taken in by her Aunt Tamazine Billings, nee Jones, and Uncle Sidney Billings.
The album is black leather with silver accents and contains 38 photos, all conventional cartes de visite popular during the time period the photo album consists of, roughly 1880-1890. CLA/084/02 also contains several photos that were put in the album’s overleaf that are now in their own folder. What makes this collection particularly remarkable is the inclusion of several dolls owned by Annie Horatia Jones, made by her aunt Tamazine Billings. Mrs. Billings dressed the dolls to resemble family members and household staff, noting the identity of each person with a label sewn into the clothing. Several of the people in the photo album are in doll form. The dolls are currently awaiting custom packaging and are not currently available for consultation. Whatever is lost by being deposited in an archive rather than the family home is regained somewhat by its relationship with the rest of the collection.
The original audience of the family album was of course the family of Annie Horatia Jones and any friends happening to visit wherever the album resided. Family portrait photography itself is a visual record of the family, and what is widely presumed to be the truth because the audience can see it though perhaps it can be better described as the truth as the family would like it to be and what they wish to present to the world. Hudgins (2010, pg.565) claims the family album was almost an analog version of today’s Facebook photo albums, shared amongst family and selected friends.
Its visual communication is hindered by the owner being deceased and is dependent upon the names written in the album and its place within the larger collection to properly convey the information inherent in the photographs. Most of the photos are labeled, though presumably at a later date as the handwriting matches the text on the overleaf of the album, requesting that the album be kept together with the dolls, per the desire of the previous owner of the collection, Magdalena Byfield. The original “interpreter” of the album, Annie Horatia Jones, was deceased, possibly being secure in the knowledge that everyone in her circle knew the people photographed well enough to identify it on their own.
Its intertexuality depends on the ability to identify the subjects of the photographs. For those portraits that are unidentified, a part of the photo album’s history is locked behind closed doors. Photo albums, and photos that are not labeled, depend upon the interpreter, someone who knew the people photographed, to fully explain what lies within. Though unlabeled photographs have their own interest in the social constructs and fashion of the time, they lose the identity of the person being photographed as well as the context of who that person was. The original owner of the album could both identify the people within as well as know details of their lives, including a general impression of personality.
There are five photos of Horace Jones by himself, easily explained as the amount a prominent man such as Jones was must have been photographed during the course of his life and the amount of copies that might have been available. Ann Jones, Annie Horatia’s mother appears six times in the album, three times by herself. It was clear that Sir Horace was wealthy enough for frequent photography, including at home visits. Several of the photographs that are dated were taken post 1886, the year Sir Horace Jones was knighted by Queen Victoria. Their new status would have been an event that certainly required a trip to the studio (or the studio visiting them for photograph within the home).
There is only one photograph of the family together. Sir Horace Jones is seated, with his wife standing behind him and their daughter standing in front of them both. What is notable is that they are being photographed at home and something off camera has captured Annie Horatia’s and Sir Horace’s attention. Meanwhile Lady Jones is looking ahead towards the photographer, her intention clear that she wanted a family photo according to the convention of all the people being photographed facing the camera. It is clear from this photograph and the others in the album that their only daughter, coming so late in Sir Horace’s life, was cherished and quite close to her parents. Her mother has an arm around her in another photo and the pair are smiling. The number of photographs of Annie Horatia and her prominent place in them attest to this.
Clara Mavor was quoted by Hudgins (2010, pg. 569) as saying that photography “was invented hand-in-hand with our modern conception of childhood.” Annie Horatia Jones appears seven times in the photo album, four times of which are on her own, usually holding a book or a toy. This illustrates the changing attitudes toward childhood since the 1860s as well as her family’s higher status. They could afford for Annie Horatia to be a child far longer than those of the lower working class. Another of the photos of her was taken when she attended the City of London Mansion House Juvenile Dress Ball as a young girl. Clearly her family could afford for her to have a social life and be dressed accordingly.
Lady Jones is photographed three times in her court dress, presumably one of the best dresses she owned and Sir Horace is always photographed with a medal on a chain. This likely indicates their pride in his achievements and their desire to show the world how far they’ve come in the world. There is also a photo of a man in Mason regalia, Gerard Ford, writing to his “brother” Sir Horace Jones, who served as the Grand Superintendant of Works for the Masons. Gerard Ford appears in one other photo, with his wife.
The Jones family preferred the photography studio of Samuel A. Walker whose studio was at 230 Regent Street. Several of the photos are taken in the Jones’ home, indicating a certain wealthy economic status and the success of Sir Horace Jones that they could afford home visits and afford multiple poses and compositions of portraits. Several of the photographs are labeled by the photographer as “portraits at home” as added advertising that could be seen by other people viewing the photos.
Though not all photographs are labeled, the following people are identified in the album:
- Sir Horatio Jones
- Ann Jones, nee Patch
- Anne Horatia Jones
- Fanny Stirling
- Mr. & Mrs. Gerard Ford
- Tammy Billings
- Sydney Billings
There are also several photographs that were placed in the album loosely and are in their own folder. This includes a drawing of a young Tammy Billings and several photos of Annie Horatia Jones growing up, one of which attests to her serving England in WWI. Annie Horatia Jones died on 27 March 1969 at Weydown House, Haslemere, Surrey. Magdalena Byfield bought the collection at auction after Annie Horatia Jones’ death and the London Metropolitan Archives purchased it in 2008.
A family album tells a very particular visual story of what the family who owned it wishes to tell or show the world. Not only is the family album a great resource for fashion history of the late 19th century, it tells at its most basic a family history, specially curated by Annie Horatia Jones, but it also fits beyond the family history, a building block to a larger history, Sir Horace Jones’ family life, and that supplements the London Metropolitan Archives’ other collections related to Sir Horace Jones, the architect. It gives both a sense of the “visual past” that Hudgins (2010, p. 560) speaks of in relation to the family of Sir Horace Jones and the visual past for a wider history.
Bibliography Below the Cut:
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