Neke od najpoznatijih portreta engleske spisateljice i kritičarke Virdžinije Vulf načinili su Cesil Biton, Žizel Frojnd i Man Rej. Ovaj članak se odnosio, ne na izgled Virdžinije Vulf i načina na koji je njena ličnost predstavljena kroz medij fotografije, već na samu spisateljičinu opsesiju fotografijom – tada još mladom umetnošću – i načinom na koji se ona odrazila na njeno pisanje. Upravo citirani tekst preuzet je iz članka objavljenog u magazinu Guardian koji je odlomak iz knjige Modernist Women and Visual Cultures autorke Maggie Humm.
„From the age of 15, photographs framed Virginia Woolf’s world. Throughout her life she wrote about photography in her diaries, letters and essays, and used photographic terms descriptively in her fiction.
As a teenager she developed her own pictures, taken with a Frena camera that had come on the market in March 1896, as letters to her brothers reveal.
Before her marriage, and later with her husband Leonard, Woolf took, developed and preserved photographs in albums.
Her letters and diaries describe a constant exchange of photographs. At 16, they were „the best present I can think of“. By 21, they were treated as emblems. „I have Marny’s [Madge Vaughan’s] photograph on my shelf, like a madonna to which I pray. She makes my room refined, as lavender in my drawers – (!!).“ In May 1912, she wrote to Leonard before their marriage, enclosing a picture and asking: „D’you like this photograph? – rather too noble, I think. Here’s another.“
Woolf used photographs to attract Vita Sackville-West, the writer-friend and wife of Harold Nicolson with whom she conducted an affair between 1925 and 1929. Writing to „Mrs Nicolson“ in1923, Woolf asked Vita to visit „to look at my great-aunt’s photographs of Tennyson and other people“. By 1926, more desperately, Woolf was writing to Vita’s mother, Lady Sackville, for the name of Vita’s passport photographer so „that I may write to him myself“ for a copy.
Woolf took Sackville-West to London to be photographed for Orlando, the novel she wrote for her at the height of their romance, and used the excuse of further illustrations to make additional visits to Sackville- West’s family home, Knole.
Perhaps it is not surprising that in her own copy of Orlando, Lady Sackville pasted a photograph of Virginia alongside the words „the awful face of a mad woman whose successful mad desire is to separate people who care for each other. I loathe this woman for having changed my Vita and taken her away from me.“
Woolf used photographs to help her write. For example, she asked Sackville-West, in 1931, for a „photograph of Henry“ (Nicolson’s cocker spaniel): „I ask for a special reason, connections with a little escapade,“ which became Woolf’s book about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog, Flush . By the time of her feminist, anti-war essay, „Three Guineas“, in 1938, Woolf was using photography ironically, subverting the images used in the book – portraying a masculine world of generals, archbishops and professors – with the narrator’s pacifist visual memories of the Spanish civil war.“