The art of the snapshot

Culture

Fun in the sun: timeless poses revisited

Broad grins and carefree fun: like the subjects of most of the snapshots on display at the show Foto Album at Berlin’s Museum of Things, these relaxed swimmers are anonymous. This dog-eared picture is part of an extensive collection of private snapshots and albums spanning more than a century. The exhibition takes a warm-hearted flick through family photos and memorabilia.

Culture

A life in a silk box

At a time when our phones and hard drives are overflowing with images, the exhibition rewinds to a time when photographs were cherished objects, rare and carefully selected. Back then, photos were tangible items kept for posterity. This silk box and its contents came from the estate of a 19th century English family.

Culture

Carefully curated personal stories

Separated with sheets of thin tissue paper, each page of a photo album is a slice of a personal history. Careful thought goes into what to include and what to leave out. Decades later, we can only guess at the stories behind those pictured in these photos from the extensive archives of the Museum of Things in Berlin.

Culture

Smile!

In this well-preserved photo album, the unnamed subjects are pictured unwinding at a lakeside home. Compared to their contemporary Instagram equivalents, however, they look somewhat formal and stilted. They date from a time when taking photographs was rare, as opposed to just another social media update.

Culture

And a toast for the camera…

Many of the photographs dating from the nineteenth and twentieth century look contrived to the modern eye. But the curator of the Foto Album exhibition flagged a series of visual conventions which live on to this day. The show includes this shot, plus a range of other photos of people raising a toast — a gesture that is replicated in smart phone images around the world.

Culture

Taking center stage

This album was inherited from the Berg family, a long line of Berlin-based vaudeville and cabaret performers. The images show Lu Berg, known as “the dancing violin.” To recreate the intimacy of flicking through a photo album, the museum produced a film of former vaudeville artist Ulla Berg telling family stories as she looks at their albums — a contrast with most exhibits that are anonymous.

Culture

Photographed with photographs

This unusual shot was exhibited among a cluster of photographs themed around pairs, a historic trend that's rarely seen today. Here, two similarly attired women sit holding their opened photo albums — although their faces betray differing emotions.

Culture

Accidents and mishaps

Thumbs over lenses, cropped off heads and other photographic near misses were among the common themes identified by the curator. This all-color shot of headless dancers at a house party was just one of a selection of faux pas displayed in the exhibition — depicting a trend that lives on in today’s smartphone snapshots.

In an age of digital overload, Berlin’s Museum of Things is rewinding to the days of analogue snapshots. Opening on Friday, Foto Album takes a warm-hearted flick through historic family photos and memorabilia.