A Few Too Many Photographs? Indexing Digital Histories

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5 Citations (Scopus)


This essay is both a study of Irish photography and an inquiry into how we narrate the past. It begins from the premise that the photograph is always caught between history and memory. In this relationship, the archive has come to assume major significance both as a material space and as an electronic site of supposedly no space. The case study offered is based on the Larcom Albums of 1857 and 1866, which contain the earliest prison photography in Ireland and Britain, and which are now freely available to view at the Digital Gallery of the New York Public Library. This study focuses on these Albums as material artefacts and the significance of their migration. From there, attention is placed on the narratives now being applied to these photographs through their visual presence on the Internet. The findings posit that even as digital surrogates, shadows of the images’ past persist. Digitisation offers the potential for millions of people to see a vastly enlarged number of old photographs. What this study reveals is that the endless array of apparently free-floating images is still contained by cultural needs and the narratives to which they can be put.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-20
Number of pages18
JournalHistory of Photography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Jan 2014


  • prison photography
  • Irish photography
  • Irish diaspora
  • archive
  • narrative
  • digitisation
  • memory


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