Five million photographic objects. A time of transition. A photographic heritage of international interest with a history that began in 1852. A move from the headquarters at Largo Alinari 1 in the center of Florence to a specialized storage facility in the Calenzano industrial park on the city’s outskirts. A waiting period between the acquisition by the Regione Toscana and the transfer to the future headquarters of the new Fondazione Alinari per la Fotografia. A milestone shift from private company to public institution. In the second half of 2020, a group of scholars reflected on the potentials of this transitional state, while photographer and filmmaker Armin Linke documented the stored crates and boxes, and listened to some of the actors involved in the Alinari firm and the recent institutional transformation. A dialogue between theory and practice that examines and questions the process of institutionalizing photographic archives.

A chance find at a flea market in the 1970s led to the genesis of a unique collection that meantime embraces more than 500,000 photographs. Today Ruth and Peter Herzog are among the most important photograph collectors worldwide. The holdings date from the early days of the technology, invented in 1839, and extend into the 1970s. They include not only the famous pioneers of the medium, like Nadar and Eadweard Mubridge, but also so far less known or anonymous photographers. The publication provides the first comprehensive portrait of this fascinatingly diverse collection, which since 2015 is being conserved and scientifically appraised at the Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron Kabinett in Basel. Thematic focal points are presented on the basis of about 300 selected objects. The texts focus on major themes of photography such as its tense relationship with art or that between photography and historiography.

Scientific photography reveals entities and processes that often hidden to the human eye. Today it has become possible to delve ever deeper on both microcosmic and macrocosmic scales to capture new worlds in images. Does photography primarily serve as a visual aid of the researcher, or does it play a larger role? Since the invention of photography in the 1830s new demands have been placed on the capacities of the medium, leading to the continual fine-tuning of the possibilities of the photograph. Science thus produces images based on utterly different premises than those of documentary, advertising or artistic photography. What defines the delicate relationship between photography and science? What photographs result, and how can they be interpreted?

With works from Anna Atkins, Auguste-Adolphe Bertsch, Hans Danuser, Liz Deschenes, Marion Denis, Harold Edgerton, Léon Foucault, Thomas Freiler, Bernhard Gardi, Raphael Hefti, Jules Janssen, Irène Joliot-Curie, Markus Krottendorfer, Albert Londe, Aïm Deüelle Lüski, Maschinensehen (Henning Arnecke, Lisa Bergmann, Christoph Oeschger, Elke Reinhuber), Melanie Matthieu, Aurélie Pétrel, Rodolphe Archibald Reiss, Hannes Rickli, Thomas Ruff, Adrian Sauer, Laurent Schmid, Sarah Schönfeld and Simon Starling.