Professor Sarah Edge’s lecture, given at the University of Ulster on 17th April 2013, is on her research into the archive of photographs compiled by Arthur J Munby ( 1828-1910) in the mid to late Victorian period (1859 to 1898). This archive holds Munby’s yearly diaries (64 filled volumes), his notebooks and sketches (12), letters and hundreds of photographs of working-class women. Created at the very moment when photography begins to succeed as a new form of mass communication this archive offers invaluable information on how Victorian Society came to use and understand the new invention of photograph. The lecture returns to this period to pose pertinent questions (that have contemporary resonance in the digital age of photography) on what marks photography as a distinct form of communication and how it was ‘negotiated’ as an entirely new communicative medium. The lecture also overturns the positioning of Munby as an ‘eccentric individual’ and amateur photographer by revealing that, with a few exceptions, his archive holds examples of the very first commercially produced photographs of working-class women making it highly relevant to scholarship on Victorian urban culture. The lecture will be illustrated throughout with examples of these fascinating photographs.
Sarah Edge is Professor of Photography and Cultural Studies at the University of Ulster, UK. She has a PhD from the University of Ulster, an MA in Art History from Leeds University and a BA in Fine Art from Portsmouth Polytechnic. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.