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From what I see on today's web, most pages are a LOT bigger than this. Instead going with that crowd, I feel the lean page gives my clients a very important edge.
That said, there definitely are specific situations where I go fatter than 50kb. In some markets, the product is such that visitors want to see a page with many thumbnails for comparison purposes. Then I assume that the customer is prepared for a longer wait and I might even go as high as 140 kb. But again, the competition is going super-mega-huge in those cases, and we still have an edge.
For your non-commercial (I presume) picture gallery, you can certainly take some liberties from my strict commercial limits. With only 6 thumbnails per page, you can probably be 5 to 7 kb per thumbnail, plus some page decoration, and still come in around 60 or 70 kb total page weight.
That should work out pretty well for most of your wife's visitors, I'd think.
If you download an already compressed file, such as a jpg, gif, zip and so on, the modem compression can't increase the speed too much more. But simple text, such as the HTML itself including page copy, can get quite a boost -- as much as 70% or 80% over an uncompressed download.
So 120 kb of text may come down the pipe lickety-split, but 120kb of highly compressed jpg may be a lot slower.
Then, once a jpg is on the users drive, it still needs to be decompressed by the browser's rendering engine and this adds a bit more time to the final and all important time-to-render.