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Monday, February 07, 2011

Private portrait gallery of the Great British public revealed in a new series from Bodleian Library Publishing

A new series of books from Bodleian Library Publishing illustrate how the private photograph radically democratised portraiture in the early twentieth century. In 1902, the post office allowed personal messages as well as addresses on the backs of postcards. In addition, the proliferation of photographic studios and the mass production of the Box Brownie meant that, for the first time, 'ordinary' people could afford to own their portraits, and to have them replicated as a photo postcard for only a penny a card. An industry was born. Within the studio, individuals could choose how they were presented through a variety of dramatic props, theatrical backdrops or costumes. Over 50,000 photographic postcards from this era (1900-1950) have been collected and thematically arranged by the artist Tom Phillips. This archive, recently acquired by the Bodleian Library, is now featured in a series of books, designed and assembled by Tom Phillips. Vivid and diverting as individual albums, the publications are a unique contribution to both social history and the history of photography

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