Writing under the name Lewis Carroll, Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–1898) was one of the major literary figures of Britain’s Victorian Age. Of equal significance, however, was his emergence as one of the most important photographers of the era. In 1856, shortly after taking up a mathematical lectureship at Oxford University, he purchased a camera and began taking photographs; it would become an avocation that he would pursue avidly for the next quarter of a century.
In addition to a number of loose prints, the major portion of the Harry Ransom Center’s holdings of Lewis Carroll photographs are contained in five personal albums compiled by him during his lifetime. These albums, unearthed in England in 1948 by photohistorians Alison and Helmut Gernsheim, contain well over 200 original albumen prints made chiefly by Carroll himself. Presenting the visual side of a major author, the photographs reflect his highly personal style and his typical choice of subjects—largely portraits of family members, children, and English acquaintances. Among the notable Victorians (many with their families) pictured by Carroll for the albums are George MacDonald, Ellen Terry, Alexander Munro, John Everett Millais, and Christina and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The five Carroll albums formed the foundation of the Gernsheims’ 1949 groundbreaking biography Lewis Carroll: Photographer and were ultimately some of their most significant acquisitions. As such the albums were a key part of the purchase of the Gernsheim collection by the Ransom Center in 1963. Since then Carroll’s photographs have been included in a variety of exhibitions and publications, notably Morton N. Cohen’s Reflections in a Looking Glass: A Centennial Celebration of Lewis Carroll, Photographer (Aperture, 1998) and the Harry Ransom Center’s own Lewis Carroll at Texas (1985).