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Picturing the family
Picturing the family

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2.3 Photographs as artefacts

Bear in mind that photographs are artefacts. This means that they are more than just images. The photographer, the process and the packaging all add something to our understanding of the role of the photograph. So, for example, the mount can indicate its purpose (exhibition wall, domestic display, album and so on) and the significance attached to the article in its time. The physical properties of a mount, such as the quality of the card or style of printing, can distinguish top-of-the-range products from the functional. These and other qualities such as thickness, texture, colour, style of decoration and any written information, printed or manuscript (i.e. hand-written), can assist in dating. I shall refer to the artefactual nature of the photographic record at various points in the course.