Officially, photography was invented on January 7, 1839. On that day, Arago presented the daguerreotype to the Academy of Sciences, named after its inventor Louis Daguerre. The latter improved Niepce’s invention, who was the first in 1826 to succeed in fixing a heliography (photograph) entitled Point de Vue du Gras and taken from his window.
The very first photo albums appeared quickly around 1840, mainly created to catalog photographic essays: a kind of research notebook of the early explorers of photographic technology.
The creation of the first photo studios at the end of the 19th century quickly led the photo album to its still important vocation: to give a showcase to family memories. Well-off families make it a decorative, living room object, made available to visitors to tell the family story. The blankets are made fancier, sometimes in leather or mother-of-pearl. We often embed photographs in decorative cardboard.
At the same time, albums of post-mortem or funeral photographs developed. Commissioned by grieving families, these albums bring together images of the dead staged, sometimes with their eyes open, with their loved ones. This type of albums and photography will not continue although it still exists in some Eastern European countries.
Photographic technology is evolving rapidly. Colour photography was born in 1861, with a first image presented by Thomas Sutton. In 1869, Louis Ducos du Hauron and Charles Cros produced the first images based on trichromy; a process making possible the reproduction of a large number of colors from three primary colors.
In 1888, Georges Eastman marketed the Kodak, the first portable camera. He thus paved the way for the advent of amateur photography. At the beginning of 1900, the possibility of creating images and collecting them in the form of photo albums was open to everyone. The first extensible albums appeared, and pages were added at will to complete the family history as it came into being.
The first use of the photo album is also throughout the 20th century, the wedding album. Families who can afford it use a professional photographer for the day of the ceremony and the couple’s photos. Depending on the service offered by the photographer, they can purchase a wedding photo album featuring the most beautiful images of the big day.
The beginning of the 19th century marked the triumph of digital photography and with it the printing of prints, posters, and the online photo album.
Scrapbooking is also developing, a favorite leisure activity, which consists in creating a unique photo album, in its image, using multiple accessories: stamps, stencils, fabrics, patterned paper, glitter, etc.
And for those who don’t feel like a scrapbooker’s soul, the offer of photo albums on the Internet is exploding. Everyone can then easily compose their album, choosing from hundreds of customizable templates to illustrate all the important moments of family life: birth, wedding, family celebrations, holidays, etc.
The album becomes a real photo book that takes its place in the family library.
Over the centuries, the photo album transformed according to the fashions and developments of photographic and printing techniques. But whatever the age, the vocation remains unchanged: to retrace, tell the family history and keep its memory for future generations. And given the rapid evolutions of IT, which switches from one storage medium to another in a few years (who can still read a floppy disk or a ZIP?), isn’t paper finally the safest way to protect and highlight this family history?