Photo Album Anthropological Approaches and Traditions of Photography Research

A photographic album as a tool of visual representation of a society or an individual in relation to periods of crisis—past and present—is the subject of a comprehensive research programme planned by CVF for the next five years (2021–2025). A photo album does not serve as a means of nostalgic recollection but as a tool of cognition, reflecting events hidden in subconscious memories,  excluded communities, and crises of families and individuals.

It is a complex entity which, in addition to the traditional photo album, includes a wide range of formats, such as private albums, scrapbooks, clippings, and digital records, combining visual ( photographs, illustrations, postcards) and textual components (captions, notes, accompanying comments, inserted letters). The research is focused primarily but not exclusively on selected topics and events of the 20th and 21st centuries, for instance, post–war confiscations (cf. e. g. private albums located in public collections), wars, forced labour under German rule, post–World War II expulsion of Germans, development of defensive zone at the border and extinction of settlements, emigration and immigration, and minority communities.

Not only the information and communication level of things are important in a photographic album, so are the topics of private emotionality, patterns of behaviour, the relationship between creator and owner, memory, interpretation, preservation of material culture in times of crisis, changes in functions, habits, ethics, and so on. The research should include reversals of history—both of humanity and personal, global topics, and examples of minority practices (excluded communities, etc.). Special attention should be paid to albums as specific types of material culture in the context of the history of photography. In addition, part of the plan is to examine contemporary artistic practice (artistic creation as a result of research, such as an archive, map, and atlas).

The project’s complexity presupposes a close international and interdisciplinary collaboration (across the fields of anthropology, sociology, general history, philosophy of art). Theoretical and methodological reflection is based on principles of the so-called “material turn”—a current phenomenon in the humanities.


The research takes place in three consecutive areas:

  • Czech (and Slovak) context
  • Central European framework including image theory 
  • Contextual (global) framework and its socio-political reflection

The main objectives are:

  • International collaboration with professional public / organization of international and local conferences and thematic workshops 
  • Systematic work with general public / collaboration with schools, community centres, including disadvantaged groups
  • Educational and pedagogical activities 
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