Since their inception in the 1860s, family albums have played an important role as the promoters of familial ideology and treasures of familial memory. ‘Most family photograph albums in containing a great variety of items, both identified and unidentified, from different periods and of varying quality,’ held together by their collective identity with the family (Schoeman, 1996: 8). The function of familial photography is to ‘fix perception and memory, represent a method of preserving memories, document important moments and confirm social relationships and fact of belonging’ (Tobiassen, 1990). When photographs are stored in albums the process ‘resembles the writing of family history’ (Tobiassen, 1990), and are thus a resource constituting
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An important factor to keep in mind when interpreting photographs is the fact that they are produced by choice. Choices about who, what, when and where to photograph can reflect much about the photographer as the subject. The camera records not only an event but also what the photographer chooses to see. Photographs display one’s view of the world. They are a reflection and definition of self. If that person has a happy family, then others may perceive him to be a good husband or wife. Parents' innocent snapshots are important in constructing their sense of identity (Merz, 1988). Traditionally, photographs have been taken from a male perspective. The father is most often absent from family photographs because he is the one who usually commands authority, poses the family and takes the picture (Trend, 1992).
The family photographer is not the only one who has authority to shape the family image. Other people may edit the photos. Some photographs are selected for presentation in an album while others are rejected. This is also known as ‘selective amnesia’ where only happy events are documented into photographs, for instance weddings and birthdays, while negative events, such as funerals, divorces, are conveniently omitted. Control of the editorial process can be as important as control over production of the photographs. Decisions regarding what to keep, throw away and display can provide valuable