WhAT IS THIS WEBSITE?
Like an image emerging in the chemical bath of a darkroom, this website lets you experience the change and development in the reception, adaption, and understanding of an image based on its reactions with contemporary thoughts, trends, and theoretical lenses. Every mode of seeing presented on this site searches for it's own truth and asks: What is the relationship between fact and interpretation? What structures of power inform our interpretations? What are the material, historical, and political concerns of the archive?
Using a single image as your base, I ask you to put on the detective’s hat. Ask yourself: How did we get to where we are today? Where do you locate yourself within these arguments?
Where do you find Alice?
What is this photograph?
Because of a variety of theories about the real-life relationship between Alice and Carroll (did Carroll love Alice?) and questions surrounding the rest of Carroll’s photographic portfolio (do his images represent a Victorian aesthetic or repressed pedophilia?) this image has received a multitude of widely diverging readings over the course of its 160-year existence.
But Carroll criticism gets caught in never-ending conversations and spirals down rabbit holes and there are no simple answers to these questions - no irrefutable piece of evidence that clarifies how this image should be read. Instead, like flipping channels on a TV, we are left to decide which versions of the story we find most believable and hold different accounts against each other to determine what truth lies between them.
how to use the annotated darkroom
Click through the different critical readings on the next page to learn more about this image and try on a variety of theoretical lenses.
Click on the buttons next to every image to learn more about what you are seeing.
More information about the content presented on this site can be found in the "Read More" columns at the end of every page, and you can read more about the organizational thoughts and motives behind this project on the "Archival Reflection" page.
Who is Alice?
Alice Liddell is best known as being the girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll (the pen-name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. For simplicity, Dodgson is referred to as "Carroll" on this site).
The photograph investigated in this website, “The Beggar Maid,” is probably the best-known and most controversial photograph of Alice, and was taken by Carroll in 1858.