British photographic history

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Exhibition: Your Stonehenge 150 years of personal photos / until August 2020

A new exhibition at the Stonehenge Visitor’s Center, is celebrating the nation’s memories of visiting the prehistoric site. A 1875 snapshot of Isabel, Maud, and Robert Routh, who made the journey there by horse-drawn carriage was unearthed by descendants of the Rouths in response to English Heritage’s request for family photographs taken at Stonehenge over the years. The first known photo of the site itself is from 1853 than the Routh image.

People have been visiting Stonehenge for centuries, and since the 19th century, people have felt compelled to take photos of themselves and their loved ones in front of the stones. But rather than lying forgotten in a dusty old photo album or on a memory card, we want people to share with us their photos of Stonehenge,” said Stonehenge director Kate Davies when putting out the call in 2018, during the centenary celebrations over Stonehenge’s donation to the nation by the site’s last private owners, Cecil and Mary Chubb.

English Heritage historian Susan Greaney and photographer Martin Parr, who co-curated the exhibition, whittled down the more than 1,400 photos submitted to just 144, covering a span of nearly 150 years. The newest image on view is by Parr himself, taken during the fall equinox this September. The photographer captured an unknown couple kissing in front of the stones while, in true 2019 fashion, holding a selfie stick aloft.

Parr hopes to identify the pair and to give them a print of the image. English Heritage is also encouraging anyone who might have an earlier photograph of their ancestors visiting Stonehenge to come forward. Martin Parr took this photograph at Stonehenge on the fall solstice in September 2019, and hopes to identify the couple.

These amateur snapshots amount to something of a social history of the UK. There are joys—honeymoon memories, family picnics back when sitting on the stones was still allowed—and also sorrows, as seen in a photograph of a 10-year-old girl and her 20-year-old brother, wearing his military uniform back in 1941. It was taken the last time they saw each other, shortly before he went missing in action during World War II.

I loved looking at the images that people sent in,” Parr said, “They really show what the stones mean to people and how our relationship with a site like Stonehenge has changed and yet stayed the same through time.

Image: Isabel, Maud, and Robert Routh in 1875, in what’s believed to be the oldest family photograph taken at Stonehenge. Courtesy of the Routh family / English Heritage.

Your Stonehenge 150 years of personal photos
Open daily at Stonehenge Visitor Centre,
Admission details https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stonehenge/prices-...
until August 2020. 

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