The secret police developed several methods for representing and curating visual materials stemming from surveilled groups or persons. Photo albums represent one of these, although they were relatively rarely used compared to other means of archiving and ordering photographic materials. Some of the albums we find in the secret police archival collections were compiled by secret police officers and included both images confiscated from the target person/group and images created by the secret police (surveillance or crime scene photos, images of confiscated items). These compilations were more than just a handsome, practical way of ordering visual materials: they formed a carefully structured narrative to incriminate religious groups as dangerous and hostile to the regime. As well as photo albums created by the secret services, secret police archives also contain albums that were confiscated from persons and families. Containing family portraits or shots of family events, these albums were valuable for the authorities because they provided information on family relations and friendship networks, the life histories and the social background of their owners. The police could then use this invaluable information in its operational work.
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme No . 677355
Agnes Hesz, "Photo albums"