Into the Archive. On the Materiality of Photographs


Archives are not only places where photographs are passively conserved; they also actively transform them into material objects. It is from this perspective that the present online-exhibition places four academic photo-archives in the spotlight: namely, the archive of the Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, with the photographic documentation relating to the archaeological campaigns for the excavation of the Greek cities of Magnesia on the Maeander and Pergamon; the collection of photographs of the Sammlung Fotografie of the Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, with two groups of architectural photographs dating to the years around 1900; the Hahne-Niehoff photo-archive on folklore at the Institut für Europäische Ethnologie at the Humboldt University in Berlin; and the Photothek of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut, focusing in particular on its decorative arts section. These four institutions are also partners in the cooperative project “Photo-objects as (research-) objects in archaeology, ethnology and art history” promoted by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The project combines methodological formulations of “material culture” with a comparative approach. More particularly photo-objects are compared as three-dimensional, material artefacts, which are active in social and cultural contexts. The focus is also placed on their claimed scientific use in the disciplines represented in the cooperative project. The aim here is not least deconstructing the presumed neutrality of documentary photographs. For the positivistic rhetoric of scientific (photo-) objectivity lends itself to forms of exploitation and abuse, as the racist implications of the photographic surveys preserved in the Hahne-Niehoff Archive make clear. For photo-objects are not objective.

Costanza Caraffa, Ludger Derenthal, Wolfgang Kaschuba, Martin Maischberger

© KHI in Florence | 08.02.2023 01:42:39