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Rosenbach Museum & Library
Rosenbach Museum & Library
Delancey Place
Philadelphia, PA
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Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) acquired his first camera in 1856 and although photography was a fairly new pastime for amateurs, he quickly became an expert in this field. His photographs of Victorian children are the main source of his reputation as a photographer. It was through photography that he first met the child who would inspire him to write Alice in Wonderland. In April 1856, Dodgson and his friend, Reginald Southey, were in the Deanery Garden at Christ Church, Oxford, trying to get a photograph of the Cathedral; all attempts failed. But the day was not a failure. In the garden were the three young daughters of Oxford Dean Henry Liddell: Lorina (6), Alice (4) and Edith (2). Dodgson recorded in his diary: “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 wet-plate process required sitters to remain perfectly still for many seconds without moving a muscle. Their movement almost certainly resulted in the failed pictures. Yet, Dodgson marks the day with a white stone, his way of indicating a particularly enjoyable day. Clearly, it was not the photography that pleased him, but meeting the children that was his delight. The friendship blossomed. This exhibition explores the relationship between Dodgson and Alice, addresses his photographic processes, comments on Victorian norms of class and childhood, and brings together his sitters’ recollections of their photographer, giving the visitor better insight into the creative mind of the man who wrote Alice.

Picture: Rosenbach Museum & Library