Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Many years ago we were searching for something to put on our walls.  We wanted something that was:
  • meaningful to us
  • beautiful
  • not expensive
  • an original piece of art
It seemed like a tall order, especially the "not expensive" part.  I originally thought about black-and-white photographs as hubby and I both like them.  I started hunting around on eBay for some and that is how I discovered albumens.

Albumens, as it turned out, were the perfect combination of photography and history, which my husband and I both love. They are a method of developing photographs that used the albumen in egg whites (along with salt and silver nitrate) to bind the photographic chemicals to the paper.  It was invented in 1850 and became popular in the 1860 - 1890s.  In fact, most 19th century photographs are albumens.   

We decided to limit our search to photographs of countries we had visited so that there was a personal connection. 

The thing I like most about albumens is looking at the little details, especially the people and vehicles.  In the picture below of the old London Bridge, you can see horses pulling carts of hay and a little sailing boat on the Thames.

They seem to vary quite a bit in colour - ranging from brown to gray and sometimes with yellowish tinges, if they have light damage.  They are extremely susceptible to the effects of light and oxygen, and as a result, many are faded with reduced contrast.

As with any photography, there are famous artists whose art is more highly valued than others.  Most of our albumens are unsigned but the three doors, we have in the living room, are by the three most famous albumen photographers.

I love the details on the doors - to think they were that old and worn in the 19th century.  A friend saw one of the door photos and recognized it - turns out his parents were married in that church.

St. Edmund's, Wootton, Isle of Wight
1870s by Frith

Barfreston, Kent
1870s by G. W. Wilson

St. Mary's, Iffley, Oxon
1870s by J. Valentine

I'll leave you with one last photo of our family room albumen.  I had this Egyptian albumen framed for my husband when he finished writing his books, so it has special memories for us.

Linked to Vintage Thingies at Coloradolady 
and Sepia Saturday.


  1. Very cool! I love all of them and it's special that they are all from places you have visited, but the doors are my favorite. There's just something about old photos of architecture when it's photographed in black and white, and how wonderful that they are by such famous photographers and that they are so old yet they look so fresh.

    Kat :)

  2. The details in early photographs are amazing. Your albumen are real pieces of art!

  3. What an excellent decorating idea. I love your black and white albumen pictures. Very classy.

  4. THese are amazing, I really like the look....Thanks for linking in with VTT!

  5. what an amazing collection, I have never heard of these. They are all beautiful but the doors especially so.

  6. Very very interesting. I learned something never heard of albumens before....wonder which of my old photos are that if any?

  7. I feel that I've really learned something new here. I really like the photograph of old London Bridge. Fascinating.

  8. They are really beautiful. I guess I had never heard of them before. Your choices are wonderful.