Around the WorldIt may be only coincidence that Thomas Cook‘s first organized travel tour occurred only three years after the invention of photography in 1839. By the 1860s, tourism as an industry was taking shape and publishers and professional photographers such as Auguste Salzmann, Félix Bonfils, Roger Fenton, and Francis Frith recognized the market for souvenir views of what were quickly becoming regular stops on the tourist‘s travel program. Many of their beautiful photographs appeared in souvenir photo books and handsomely bound gilded leather albums.
The Grand Tour in Photo Albums
The significance of the roll-film camera to travel albums cannot be underestimated: prior to their invention in 1888 and widespread popularity beginning in 1900, most travelers‘ views of places and experiences relied primarily on written accounts, engravings, souvenir photographs, and stereoviews. With the introduction of roll film cameras such as Kodak‘s Brownie and Autographic cameras and the Monroe Vest Pocket, it became possible for tourists to fix on film their own individual experiences and to arrange them in albums with words and other accumulated mementos, creating a visual record of their journey.
While the professional experience of travel and photography have been studied and documented, the personal experiences of the amateur—as represented in the assemblage of memorabilia, photographs, narrative, and souvenir views that comprise the travel album—have not. Vintage travel albums are singular in their expression and documentation of particular journeys beyond the realm of their creators‘ everyday existence. Anyone who opens an album‘s cover (either real or virtual) - no matter where or when - is on a voyage and can relive the experience long after the original "real" excursion was taken. We may well have been to the destination depicted in the album. Even so, we wish, in that moment, we were there