ALINARI, A PAST CONJUGATED WITH THE PRESENT
2012 marks the 160th anniversary of Fratelli Alinari, a family photographic studio from 1852 until 1920, then a shareholder firm and now a foundation, located in Florence. This continuity makes Fratelli Alinari the oldest firm in the world working in the field of photography, after having been Italy’s most flourishing photographic studio.
Its renown initially arose from the studio’s quality views of works of art. Its commercial reputation then rapidly became established on Italian cultural heritage as a whole, through photographic campaigns that recorded the vestiges of Antiquity, medieval edifices, frescoes and statuary, as well as traditional costumes, sites, towns, picturesque villages and their inhabitants.
Endowed from the beginning with a well-established portrait studio, Alinari also realised commissions for industry, religious institutions and scientific laboratories. The number of photographs produced when the Fratelli Alinari studio was operating thus offers a kaleidoscopic vision of art and Italian society and its transformations in the last third of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th.
A living place and a place of memory, Alinari continues to play a major role in the photographic landscape, as a photographic publisher, a photography museum and the owner of a photographic fund acquired since the 1930s and, lastly, as a digital online archive covering more than a century and all areas of photographic activity.
Invited to revisit Alinari’s production between 1852 and 1920, Christophe Berthoud, a former ENSP student, has chosen to give an account of the collection’s diversity of themes and genres through the method employed by Italo Calvino in his collection of interlinked tales The Castle of Crossed Destinies (Le Château des destins croisés).
Titled Les Archives Alinari et la Syntaxe du Monde (The Alinari Archives and the Syntax of the World), the exhibition will be organised around Tarot of Marseilles cards like those Calvino used as a ‘narrative machine’ and that he reproduced in the margins of his text. The cards’ combinations will be presented on the walls and will provide a main thread to the exhibition. The exhibition will also pay tribute to Calvino, one of the most popular Italian writers in France, and to his contribution to Oulipo (ouvroir de littérature potentiel), where he joined Raymond Queneau and George Perec in 1973. The Castle of Crossed Destinies explicitly adheres to the Oulipo spirit.
Christophe Berthoud, curator – ENSP 1992
Exhibition produced by Christophe Berthoud, co-produced by the Rencontres d’Arles and Fratelli Alinari. Fondazione per la Storia della Fotografia.