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Public and private histories: Charles Buls' travel albums

Bruno Notteboom (UGent)
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Abstract
Charles Buls (1837-1914), mayor of Brussels during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, was a fervent traveller and amateur photographer in his free time. However, most of his images were destined for the public eye. His travel albums were not only meant to be seen by close relatives, but in a larger social and professional context as well. Buls was an active contributor to tourist and photography journals, such as the Bulletin du Touring Club de Belgique and the Bulletin de l’Association Belge de Photographie. In addition, he gave numerous illustrated lectures on his travels. In line with the tradition of the Grand Tour, Buls focused in these travelogues on historical monuments and sites. His images fitted in the existing iconographic tradition: history was represented as a succession of isolated objects. Buls’ archive contains also a limited number of photographic series which were not meant to be published or to be part of travel albums. They only served as private documentation. The most extensive of these series were made on a journey to Sicily in 1902. By means of a comparison between his ‘public’ and ‘private’ images, we demonstrate how Buls constructed two different attitudes towards heritage. In contrast to his published photos, the images of Sicily depict a city in which history is merely the background for daily life. The reaction against the isolation of monuments and the interaction between the pedestrian and the historic urban tissue was the main idea in Buls’ theory on urbanism, published as Esthétique des Villes in 1894. The paper rises the following question: if the photos of Sicily are a striking evocation of Buls’ ideas on the role of history for the city, why did this kind of imagery not find its way to the public sphere of tourist journals?
Keywords
City Photography, Urban Planning

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Chicago
Notteboom, Bruno. 2011. “Public and Private Histories: Charles Buls’ Travel Albums.” In Imaging History : Photography After the Fact, ed. Bruno Vandermeulen and Danny Veys, 75–86. Brussels, Belgium: ASA Publishers.
APA
Notteboom, B. (2011). Public and private histories: Charles Buls’ travel albums. In B. Vandermeulen & D. Veys (Eds.), Imaging history : photography after the fact (pp. 75–86). Brussels, Belgium: ASA Publishers.
Vancouver
1.
Notteboom B. Public and private histories: Charles Buls’ travel albums. In: Vandermeulen B, Veys D, editors. Imaging history : photography after the fact. Brussels, Belgium: ASA Publishers; 2011. p. 75–86.
MLA
Notteboom, Bruno. “Public and Private Histories: Charles Buls’ Travel Albums.” Imaging History : Photography After the Fact. Ed. Bruno Vandermeulen & Danny Veys. Brussels, Belgium: ASA Publishers, 2011. 75–86. Print.
@incollection{2003475,
  abstract     = {Charles Buls (1837-1914), mayor of Brussels during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, was a fervent traveller and amateur photographer in his free time. However, most of his images were destined for the public eye. His travel albums were not only meant to be seen by close relatives, but in a larger social and professional context as well. Buls was an active contributor to tourist and photography journals, such as the Bulletin du Touring Club de Belgique and the Bulletin de l{\textquoteright}Association Belge de Photographie. In addition, he gave numerous illustrated lectures on his travels. In line with the tradition of the Grand Tour, Buls focused in these travelogues on historical monuments and sites. His images fitted in the existing iconographic tradition: history was represented as a succession of isolated objects.
Buls{\textquoteright} archive contains also a limited number of photographic series which were not meant to be published or to be part of travel albums. They only served as private documentation. The most extensive of these series were made on a journey to Sicily in 1902. By means of a comparison between his {\textquoteleft}public{\textquoteright} and {\textquoteleft}private{\textquoteright} images, we demonstrate how Buls constructed two different attitudes towards heritage. In contrast to his published photos, the images of Sicily depict a city in which history is merely the background for daily life. The reaction against the isolation of monuments and the interaction between the pedestrian and the historic urban tissue was the main idea in Buls{\textquoteright} theory on urbanism, published as Esth{\'e}tique des Villes in 1894. The paper rises the following question: if the photos of Sicily are a striking evocation of Buls{\textquoteright} ideas on the role of history for the city, why did this kind of imagery not find its way to the public sphere of tourist journals?},
  author       = {Notteboom, Bruno},
  booktitle    = {Imaging history : photography after the fact},
  editor       = {Vandermeulen, Bruno and Veys, Danny},
  isbn         = {9789461170132},
  keyword      = {City Photography,Urban Planning},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {75--86},
  publisher    = {ASA Publishers},
  title        = {Public and private histories: Charles Buls' travel albums},
  year         = {2011},
}