Virginia Woolf Was an Avid Photographer, Too—See Her Intimate Snapshots of the Bloomsbury Set (and Her Pets) Here

Harvard Library has digitized Virginia Woolf's personal photo albums, which feature members of her literary circle as well as her pets.

Virginia Woolf (ca. 1933) English critic, novelist and essayist. Photo by Central Press/Getty Images.
Virginia Woolf (ca. 1933) English critic, novelist and essayist. Photo by Central Press/Getty Images.

For a glimpse into the life of one of the world’s most celebrated female authors, look no further than the Harvard Library, which has digitized Virginia Wolf’s personal photo albums. The author began taking photographs at just 15, developing film shots on a Frena camera. She preserved her images in neatly organized photo albums, which you can now peruse online.

The photographs capture Woolf’s life at Monk’s House, the 17th-century cottage in East Sussex, England, where she lived with husband Leonard Woolf from 1919 until committing suicide in 1941. The albums start in 1890 and end in 1947. They include photographs taken by Leonard after Woolf’s death. They do not appear to be arranged in any particular order, with numerous blank pages interspersed amid the over 1,000 photographs.

The six albums on the library website contain photographs of other important literary figures, including E.M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes, and W.B. Yeats, as reported by Open Culture. (Woolf was part of the Bloomsbury Set, a group of English writers and intellectuals known for their radical tendencies toward feminism and pacifism, and their modern take on sexuality.)

A page from one of Virginia Woolf's personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.

A page from one of Virginia Woolf’s personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.

“From the age of 15, photographs framed Virginia Woolf’s world,” wrote Maggie Humm in her 2003 book Modernist Women and Visual Cultures: Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Photography, and Cinema, excerpted in the Guardian. “Throughout her life she wrote about photography in her diaries, letters and essays, and used photographic terms descriptively in her fiction.”

Flipping through her vacation photos, landscape images, and pictures of beloved pets, one can’t help but imagine how Woolf, the great-niece of the great Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, might have embraced the age of Instagram.

See more images from Woolf’s scrapbooks below.

A page from one of Virginia Woolf's personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.

A page from one of Virginia Woolf’s personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.

A page from one of Virginia Woolf's personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.

A page from one of Virginia Woolf’s personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.

A page from one of Virginia Woolf's personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.

A page from one of Virginia Woolf’s personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.

A page from one of Virginia Woolf's personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.

A page from one of Virginia Woolf’s personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.

A page from one of Virginia Woolf's personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.

A page from one of Virginia Woolf’s personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.

A page from one of Virginia Woolf's personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.

A page from one of Virginia Woolf’s personal scrapbooks. Courtesy of the Harvard Library.


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