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Cimelia Photographica

Populating the Urban Space

In the early photographic city views, there are often no traces of human activity. Extremely long exposure times, which could have been up to half an hour in the early days, resulted in people being blurred to ghostly appearances, providing they did not remain motionless in front of the camera. For example, this technical shortcoming can be seen in the photograph of a Renaissance palace in Corato in Apulia or in the photograph of Milan cathedral, in which some of the people visible in front of the building have become phantasms. In the two views of the Mercato Vecchio in Florence, the problem was solved on the photograph by tracing in ink the blurred people and thus “fixing” them. However, these means of populating the city was not possible on a larger scale until the end of the 1850s. From that moment, the small-format city views produced using the wet-plate collodion process, which required a much shorter exposure time, showed streets and squares with people. One critic commented enthusiastically on this development of the city views with the words: “How infinitely better than these “necropolises” that we had to be content with until now.” It still took until around 1880 until dry plates were usable for views of this type in larger formats.


Pompeo Pozzi: Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, albumin print, before 1868. Photograph: 34.9 x 26.7 cm (inventory no. 13895)

Francesco Ciappei: Via San Lorenzo in Genoa, albumin print, before 1887. Photograph: 27.2 x 20.4 cm (inventory no. 464792)

Romualdo Moscioni: Santa Maria della Porta in Palo del Colle (Apulia), albumin print, before 1893. Photograph: 40 x 25.2 cm (inventory no. 4305)

Giuseppe Baccani: Piazza del Mercato Vecchio in Florence, collodion print, before 1887. Photograph: 12.5 x 17.4 cm (inventory no. 74310)

Giuseppe Baccani: Piazza del Mercato Vecchio in Florence, collodion print, before 1887. Photograph: 12.5 x 17.4 cm (inventory no. 74310)

Giuseppe Baccani: Piazza del Mercato Vecchio, corner of Via Calimala in Florence, collodion print, 1888. Photograph: 12.5 x 17.4 cm (inventory no. 74311)

Unidentified photographer: Piazza del Duomo in Milan, albumin print, estate of Cornel von Fabriczy. Photograph: 27 x 37.4 cm (inventory no. 13868)

Unidentified photographer: Porta Pila in Genoa, silver-gelatin print, 1892-1895. Photograph: 17.2 x 23.4 cm (inventory no. 456735a)




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Giuseppe Baccani: Piazza del Mercato Vecchio in Florence, collodion print, before 1887. Photograph: 12.5 x 17.4 cm (inventory no. 74310)

© KHI in Florence | 21.10.2020 23:18:25