Since the 19th century, scholars have been collecting photographs and creating extensive image archives, which also today, in the digital age, have lost nothing of their relevance or topicality.
Photographs are not only images, but also historically shaped three-dimensional objects. They hold a physical presence, bear traces of handling and use and circulate in social, political and institutional networks.
Beyond their visual content they are now increasingly acknowledged as material ‘actors’ not only indexically representing the objects they depict but also playing a crucial role in the processes of meaning-making within scientific practices. Thus, photographs lead a double existence as both pictures of objects and material objects in their own right.
Most scientific disciplines rapidly adopted photography as an important research tool to document. Through photographs objects of research, were detached from their original surroundings, put in standardized and transportable formats, newly contextualized and made comparable.
Especially the material qualities of photographs have shaped their adoption in the various disciplines by affording certain types of uses. Inscriptions in and the handling of photographs made ‘photo-objects’ applicable to the sciences and humanities. This way they could be classified, archived and thus satisfy the positivistic demand for ‘objectivity’.
The formation and definition of many academic disciplines is therefore not conceivable without photography. These processes were encouraged by the foundation of specialized photo-archives as interfaces of technology and science.
This book brings together contributions about work on and with photo objects from four photo archives in Kunstbibliothek/Antikensammlung at Staatliche Museen (Berlin), Institut für Europäische Ethnologie at Humboldt-Universität (Berlin), and the Kunsthistorischen Institut/Max-Planck-Institut (Florence).
This compilation is supplemented by the perspectives of various artists.