Maxime Du Camp
John B. Greene
Jakob August Lorent
August Sander: Sardinien 1927, an exhibition in cooperation with the City of Cagliari. It features some 150 original prints and provides impressive evidence of the photographer's considerable ability to relate to a place to which he had only just been introduced. Contemporary: Ruth Hallensleben, Italy 1952, a view of the Collection. The featured photographs show views of the South of Italy, Rome, Tuscany and Venice. The exhibition 'Historical Travel Photography 1850-1890' focuses on three classical travel destinations: Egypt, the Levant, i.e. Palestine, Lebanon, and the states of pre-unified Italy.
An exhibition by Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne, in cooperation with the City of Cagliari
August Sander (1876–1964) became a photographer of international renown as a result of his portraiture work People of the 20th Century. But during a career that spanned more than 50 years, he also made a continual study of other topics – in the field of landscape and architectural photography.
The idea of a trip to Sardinia came initially from August Sander's friend, the writer Ludwig Mathar. The two planned to produce a book about the island, which was a relatively unknown place at the time (the project ultimately failed to be realized, probably because of difficulties with the publisher). Mathar had already been to Sardinia a number of times. For Sander, it was the only time in his life that he spent more than a week on foreign soil. On the morning of Tuesday, 8 March 1927, Sander and Mathar took the 8.58 express from Cologne Central Railway Station to Genoa. The journey, via Basel and Milan, took 24 hours. After more stops at Pisa and Livorno, they travelled by ship along the north and west coast of Sardinia, disembarking at the capital Cagliari and covering the last leg of their journey by train and mail van. In just 30 days, they toured almost every inch of the island and concluded their journey in Rome, visiting the Abbey of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls where Ludwig Mathar had been a novice in his youth. August Sander finally set off home on 22 April.
The two men visited lots of sights on the island: the sights and towns of Cagliari, Porto Torres, Iglesias, Oristano and Sassari, the prehistoric site of the Nuraghe Losa, the castle ruins of Acquafredda and the former abbey of Santissima Trinità di Saccargia. But they were also interested on the daily life of the Sardinian people and their festival customs, as photographs from Abbasanta, Atzara, Aritzo and Nuoro confirm. With the help of the Figari brothers, the painter Filippo, who had been a friend of Ludwig Mathar since 1924, and the lawyer Renato, they managed to make contact with local people and learn about the island's traditions. They were particularly fascinated by the colourful Sardinian costumes, for which August Sander had especially brought along colour photographic material. The photographs of the island show an unspoiled Sardinia. Some of the buildings have since undergone alterations or no longer exist but many of the locations are still recognizable and can still be visited.
The present exhibition features some 150 original prints by August Sander and provides impressive evidence of the photographer's considerable ability to relate to a place to which he had only just been introduced. At the same time, Sander remains true to his observant documentary approach, creating a graphically differentiated contemporary record. No other professional 20th century photographer paid tribute to Sardinia's heritage with such a meticulous and extensive documentation as August Sander. Convinced of photography's potential for precise portrayal – which he saw substantiated in the early days of the medium – he must have felt very close on that Italian journey to the 19th century photographers who had set off on expeditions all over the world.
Sander himself regarded the photographs made in Italy as a particularly important part of his life's work. The negatives were among the first he took to his rural retreat in the Westerwald, to save them from the bombing in Cologne. Although he had made prints straight away on his return from the Sardinian trip, he produced more enlargements in the 1950s – at the age of around 75 – which he mounted on card and grouped in fabric-covered portfolios.
In casting this exhibition spotlight on the Sardinian project, Die Photographische Sammlung adds yet another chapter to the academic analysis of August Sander's work as a whole. The principal focus is on reconstructing the genesis of the photographer's work and the maxims he adopted. The research is based on more than 300 negatives produced in the context of the Sardinian trip – predominantly glass plates but also sheet and roll film – as well as 224 vintage prints and 14 colour screen plates, supplemented by correspondence and documents in the Photographische Sammlung collection. Other information is also incorporated, from interviews with Sander's contemporaries and descendents to research results in the public domain. The exhibition is significantly enhanced, for example, by a number of items obtained on loan from private collections.
The Sardinian collection, together with a detailed publication, was presented to high acclaim at the Galleria Comunale d’Arte in Cagliari, Sardinia, in 2009. The project was vigorously supported by cultural affairs director and art historian Giorgio Pellegrini, who contributed an essay for the publication reflecting on Sardinian art and culture from the 18th century through to the 1920s/30s. He also helped with the identification and verification of the motifs. Those responsible for the project at Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur are Gabriele Conrath-Scholl and Rajka Knipper. Rajka Knipper summarized the research results in a meticulously documented report for the catalogue as well as in a pictorial documentation of all the surviving images captured on the trip in the August Sander Archive. Photographer Jean-Luc Differdange, who is responsible for the fonds of the August Sander Archive, performed the retouching on the originals, prepared the reproductions for the book production and supervised the scanning for the facsimiles of the colour photographs.
August Sander. Sardinia. Photographs of an Italian Journey in 1927, ed. Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, with a foreword by Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, texts by Rajka Knipper, Giorgio Pellegrini, Albertus and Ludwig Mathar, Munich: Schirmer/Mosel, 2009 German/Italian, € 49.80
A View of the Collection
Ruth Hallensleben. Italy, 1952
Known largely for her commission work for industry, Ruth Hallensleben (1898–1977) is presented in this cabinet exhibition as a travel photographer. The featured photographs show views of the South of Italy, Rome, Tuscany and Venice. The prints are part of an extensive collection that was entrusted to Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur by Lotte Laska, Ruth Hallensleben's niece, and was presented to the institution by her heirs in 2010 for permanent safekeeping. The current exhibition presents just part of the collection, which comprises thousands of prints reflecting every facet of the artist's work.
Created as reportages, the photographs made in Italy are mostly of cultural sites and special features of the landscape. On Ischia, Hallensleben trains her camera on picturesque beaches, narrow gorges and small fishing villages; in Amalfi and Ravello, she singles out the medieval churches and palaces on the steeply sloping coast. She photographs the world‑famous ruins of Pompeii and the instantly familiar art monuments of Rome, Florence and Venice. Any people that appear in her photographs are window-dressing for the location – like the couple surrounded by pigeons on the Piazza San Marco in Venice – or illustrations of local life, like the barefoot children on the streets or fishermen and street-traders on Ischia. Intended for travel magazines such as Merian, which published a number of the photographs of Pompeii, Naples and Ischia in 1958, the pictures were designed to stir a desire to discover the art-rich cities and regions and awaken a yearning for sea and sand.
The photographs produced by Ruth Hallensleben in 1952 document specific regions while at the same time capturing the atmosphere of each location. They not only underline widespread perceptions of the sun-drenched south; they also present souvenir images for those who have visited the area and provide graphic inspiration for armchair travellers. Ruth Hallensleben's photographs reflect the upsurge of travel in the wake of the "economic miracle" – a development that led to the mass tourism that has increasingly blurred national boundaries ever since.
Historical Travel Photography 1850–1890 With works by James and Domenico Anderson, Henri Béchard, Félix Bonfils, Giacomo and Carlo Brogi, Giuseppe Cimetta, Maxime Du Camp, Francis Frith, John B. Greene, Eugenio Interguglielmi, Jakob August Lorent, Pascal Sébah, Giorgio Sommer and others
The exhibition focuses on three classical travel destinations: Egypt, the Levant, i.e. Palestine and Lebanon, which were part of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century, and the states of pre-unified Italy. The majority of exhibits show art monuments and landscapes, flanked by a number of photographs of daily life and portraits of individuals. The three regions are depicted in images that vividly portray their architectural subject or strikingly capture the atmosphere of the scene regardless of how well the site is known. During selection, special attention was paid to correlating the examples of architectural and landscape photography and making comparisons. Outstanding, compelling photographs have been obtained for the exhibition on loan from the rich collections of the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums(rem)/Forum Internationale Photographie(FIP), Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Fotografische Sammlung (Sammlung Lebeck/Sammlung Agfa) and the Historical Photo Archive of the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum – Kulturen der Welt in Cologne, along with a small number of items from the Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur collection itself.
Travel photography played an important role as a genre even in the early days of the medium. Practitioners not only documented images of places, towns and rural landscapes but also architectural monuments and works of art as witnesses of cultural heritage. François Arago, presenting the daguerreotype at the French Academy of Sciences in 1839, specifically highlighted the process's major significance for academic disciplines such as archaeology. While early researchers had taken along artists and draftsmen to produce detailed images of the ancient sites and monuments, daguerrotypists and calotypists now travelled the Mediterranean to photograph historical buildings and art. Before long, the photographs ceased to be merely models or aides-memoire for painted or etched vedute; they assumed a commercial value of their own.
The Italian states held a magnetic attraction, just as they had for the painters and sculptors who had flocked there in the past. The large Italian vistas market was served not only by photographers based in Florence (such as Giacomo Brogi), Venedig (Giuseppe Cimetta) and Palermo (Eugenio Interguglielmi) but also by travelling photographers from Central and Northern Europe. Some, like James Anderson or Giorgio Sommer, transferred to Rome or Naples altogether.
At the same time, a number of photographers travelled to North Africa, Syria and Palestine or even further afield. Many of the earliest travel photographers were very well-off individuals or were sponsored on their trips. Mostly from England (like Francis Frith), Germany (Jakob August Lorent) or France (Maxime Du Camp and John B. Greene), they travelled through Egypt and the Middle East, either on a mission for the government back home or driven by their own enthusiasm. En route, they found pyramids, ancient temples and other witnesses of thousands of years of civilization, discovered the Orient as the quintessence of exotic flair and fascination or visited the sites they knew from the Bible. They brought their photographs back to Europe and published them in elaborate and exclusive portfolios or albums.
Around the middle of the 19th century, travel photographs were produced by only a few pioneers – often under extremely tough conditions. It was not until the second half of the century that professional studios were established offering photographs as souvenirs for the privileged minority in a position to travel to distant lands.
Taking photographs was difficult in those days, especially in a hot desert climate, and few of the photographers had the benefit of any technical training. All the more reason to admire the results they achieved – showing monuments that are now a great deal more weathered or have disappeared altogether. A travelling photographer around the middle of the 19th century toted a great deal of baggage. Because enlargements were hardly possible, the negative had to be the same size as the final print, so several cameras were often needed. He also carried a full set of laboratory equipment and a dark room. Only with the advent of ready-to-use dry plates and ultimately the silver gelatine negative could processing be postponed and performed when conditions were more favourable, which made life a great deal easier for the photographers of the second half of the century.
The travel photographer's subjects included all sites of historical or cultural significance as well as picturesque places that tourists wished to see and remember. Local people often appeared in the photographs, enlivening the scene and at the same time enabling not just the shapes but also the scale of gigantic columns and sculptures to be appreciated. Because of the low sensitivity of the photographic materials, exposures were still relatively long, despite intense sunlight, and scenes in early photographs seemed static and contrived. Portraits of individuals or small groups of religious leaders, noble chieftains, merchants and craftsmen or women in veils with their children were arranged in the studio. Some particularly fine examples of this portraiture came from the studio of Pascal Sébah
Focusing on three regions and the work of selected photographers, the Historical Travel Photography 1850-1890 exhibition attempts to highlight the diversity of travel photography in terms of its imagery, formats, techniques and forms of presentation. Against the backdrop of the two concurrent exhibitions, the photographs from Italy over the last century permit a direct comparison with those of August Sander and Ruth Hallensleben, e.g. in Pisa, Amalfi and Venice.
Image: Oxen cart with disc wheels and electric light in Abbasanta 1927 © Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Köln; VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2011
Dr. Ralf Convents E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening: Thursday 21 April 7pm
Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur
Im Mediapark 7 . 50670 Cologne
Opening hours: Mon-Tues, Thurs-Sun 2-7pm