Last week I had the chance to talk about photonovels during the conference "New Strategies for User Engagement & Digitised Photographic Heritage", which took place at the Photography Museum of Berlin from February 19th to 21st. The conference was organized within the framework of "Fifties in Europe Kaleidoscope", a project led by KU Leuven that aims at improving the user experience in engaging with digital cultural heritage using state-of-the-art technologies and focuses on ‘Europe in the 50s’, when citizens on both sides of the East-West divide started to rebuild their lives after the war. The conference showcased key results of the Kaleidoscope project together with wonderful digitized photographs from the 1950s provided by institutions from all over Europe. Of course, talking about the 50s, there needed to be mention of photonovels and I gladly filled that gap.
Photonovels of the 50s: a seminal (yet forgotten) editorial phenomenon of the postwar years Abstract Although hardly remembered today, photonovels were the dominant popular entertainment form in the mass media print culture of the 50s. Sentimental and melodramatic, the stories were brought forward by a combination of staged photographs, speech balloons and captions. They were printed in serialized format in women’s weeklies and reached millions of readers, providing the romance and happy-ending stories people needed after the hardship of war. In this presentation I will discuss, on the one hand, the influential role of photonovels on the society of the 50s, especially in creating a sense of safety, identity and community; on the other hand, I will focus more specifically on the photographic aspect of these stories, delineating its main traits and difficulties.