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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
"To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life." ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Photographer Profile ~ Charles Dodgson ( aka Author Lewis Carroll)

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832 -1898) better known as “Lewis Carroll,” author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, took up the then new art-form of photography in 1856. Over 3000 photographs were taken by Dodgson, but only 1000 have survived due to the passage of time and deliberate destruction.

Fifty percent of Dodgson’s surviving work is of young girls, but he also photographed skeletons, dolls, dogs, families, statues and trees. Charles Dodgson quit photography in 1880 because he thought keeping a running studio was too difficult and time-consuming.

“You, I suppose, dream photographs,” 
Alfred, Lord Tennyson describing Charles Dodgson
 Eliza D. Hobson, taken at Croft Rectory, Yorkshire, circa 1860 Albumen : 15.5 x 12.5 cm by Charles Dodgson
 ( aka Lewis Carroll)

Irene MacDonald, Flo Rankin, and Mary MacDonald at Elm Lodge, 1863 by Charles Dodgson
 ( aka Lewis Carroll)

The Real Alice ( in Wonderland)  Alice Lidell dressed up as beggar-maid.

Carroll took several photos of Alice Liddell, though the best known one is “Portrait of Alice Liddell as the Beggar Child.” Author Francine Prose describes it in her book The Lives of the Muses:
“The child is exceptionally beautiful.  The bright black coins of her eyes, the unblemished pale flesh ever so lightly grazing the rough, mossy stone, the perfect ankles and feet, the slightly prehensile toes curled among the nasturtiums, the ragged costume nearly comical in its carnal suggestiveness, the crisp regularity of her features, the gleam of her hair, the naturalness of her posture, the confidence of that crooked elbow and the hand at her hip, the artistry of this composition, the graceful pose that seems so integral and ideally suited to the photograph–the cupped hand, the beggar child’s supplication, not extended toward us but staying within the picture plane, more ironic, knowing, and withholding than importuning–a pose so apparently effortless that we take its elegance for granted until we compare it with another photo of Alice in the same beggar’s rags, a more frontal and literal-minded shot in which the girl’s hands, joined before her, resemble a baby seal’s flippers.”
 “Finally its the gaze that holds us and makes the photo seem so unlike any other portrait of a child–or an adult.  It’s the subtlety and complexity of Alice’s expression, the paradoxical mixture of the sly and straightforward, the saucy and serious: the intense concentration that Alice brought to Dodgson’s portrayals of her as a child, the boldness that singled her out of family groupings and then disappeared, subsumed by self-conscious melancholy, as Alice passed the age at which the child-friends ceased to interest their attentive adult companion.” (Prose, pp. 66-67)

 Alice Liddell
by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
wet collodion glass plate negative, Spring 1860
5 in. x 6 in.
 Lorina Charlotte (b. 1849) and Alice Pleasance  Liddell (b. 1852) daughters of Rev. Henry George Liddel (as above), taken in Chinese costume in the Deanery Garden at Christ Church in 1859. 

Charles Dodgson's love affair with photography

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