First Conference on the History of Photography in Argentina. Reflections on a new historical discipline thirty years away.

Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the first edition of the Congress on the History of Photography.

Abel Alexander gives the commemorative diploma to Hilda Brandy.

Felicitas Luna joyfully celebrates this unique moment. Felix Luna's daughter today directs the José Hernández Museum of Argentinian Motives and the magazine “Todo es Historia”.

From left to right, behind the face mask, Francisco Medail, Verónica Tell and Inés Yujnovsky.



Argentine photographic historian, researcher, restorer, collector and curator of photographic collections.

He is the author and co-author of numerous books, essays, catalogs and articles on Argentine historical photography. For decades he has worked as a journalist specializing in old photography for the Clarín newspaper in Buenos Aires. In 2021 his work “These weak papers are stronger than bricks” is published (ArtexArte, Pretéritos Imperfectos Collection, Buenos Aires)

5th generation descendant of the German daguerreotypist and photographer Adolfo Alexander (1822-1881).

He curator of numerous exhibitions on daguerreotypes and old photographs at a national level. He has directed various Photographic Museums and Historical Photographic Libraries. In 1985 he was a founding member of the "Dr. Julio F. Riobó" Research Center on Ancient Photography in Argentina.

In 1992, together with Miguel Ángel Cuarterolo and Juan Gómez, he initiated the renowned Conferences on the History of Photography of national and international significance through 12 meetings.

He currently chairs the Ibero-American Society for the History of Photography (SIHF).

For 15 years he organized, together with Juan Travnik, exhibitions on national historical photography in the Photo Gallery of the San Martín Theater, in the City of Buenos Aires.

From 2006 to 2018 he served as Historical-Photographic Advisor for the "Benito Panunzi" Photo Library of the "Mariano Moreno" National Library in Buenos Aires.

He has edited various photographic collections such as "Photography in Argentine History", "Scenes of Daily Life", "A Century of Argentine Photography" and other titles on this historical theme.

In September 2017 he participated as co-author and guest speaker at the exhibition "Photography in Argentina (1850-2010). Continuity and Contradiction" organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, California.

In July 2021, the National Academy of Fine Arts of Argentina awarded him the Gratia Artis 2021 award "by virtue of having dedicated his life to the study, dissemination and support of the Visual Arts with relevant quality and continuity."

And also in 2021, the National Academy of History appoints him a corresponding member.

By Abel Alexander *

On May 21, a group of photographic researchers slowly entered the beautiful building of the Medical Circle of Vicente López (CMVL). The emotion that overwhelmed the majority was perceived, especially the white-headed veterans -authors and listeners- who had starred in that same building, nothing less than the 1st Congress of the History of Photography in Argentina.

Thus, the 30th anniversary of those historic days was commemorated, which occurred on May 23 and 24, 1992 when, summoned by a longed-for and uncertain common dream, the brand-new Argentine photographic researchers met -a presence enriched with the participation of three specialists Latin Americans - eager to share knowledge and experiences.

This event on May 21, 2022 was attended by more than 50 members of the Ibero-American Society for the History of Photography; We were received by the current director of the Medical Circle, Dr. Marcelo Maucci, who had collaborated with Dr. Sergio Lugo's team in the 1992 Congress. In the celebrations we also had the invaluable help of Alberto Expósito and Silvia. Koslab by Maucci. Located in the large auditorium, the act began by remembering that, in that friendly house of our photographic heritage, four congresses were held; the first three in successive years and the eighth, in 2003. Each one gave rise to a publication: Number 1, from 1992, with a Foreword by Abel Alexander and 28 papers; the second (1993) with the Prologue by Félix Luna and 43 papers; number 3, from 1994, with a Prologue by Juan Gómez and 41 papers, and number eight, from 2003 with a Prologue by Marie-Loup Souguez (Spain) and 62 papers.

There was a strong emotion remembering the deceased colleagues, and later we enjoyed the pleasant surprise of the messages projected on a large screen with greetings from Ilonka Csillag (Chile); Luz Castillo, director of the "Arte x Arte" Foundation, where the next Congress will be held in September 2023; by the architect Ramón Gutiérrez; of the pioneer Hugo Géz from San Luis; from the permanent collaborator Cristina Mirabelli and as a hopeful sign, the formal invitation from the architect Mario Lazárovich to participate in the 1st Congress of the History of Photography in Northwest Argentina (NOA), in the city of Salta, scheduled for September this year.

Alexander and Priamo, pioneering photographic historians.

Speakers were the host, Dr. Marcelo Maucci, Alberto Expósito, Abel Alexander, Luis Priamo and Mariana de Cabo; in that order. Diplomas of recognition were handed out and, as usual, there were numerous raffles thanks to the large number of photographic books donated by their authors and whose lucky numbers came from the hands of Morena Luna. In this atmosphere of camaraderie, the essential collaboration of Axel Alexander, Juan Carlos Borra and Luiza Pereira stood out; and also, the commitment of Eduardo López who, in a special stand, exhibited the posters and the four Reports edited with the works presented in those pioneering Congresses that took place in this venue.

Later, in the hall of the CMVL auditorium, a commemorative plaque was unveiled for the 30th anniversary -also in posthumous tribute to the memory of Dr. Sergio Lugo- an act in which his widow and Alberto Expósito participated. Later, and as in those happy years of cold winters, we were invited with some tasty empanadas from Salta and good wines to remember the pioneering days.

Looking back, we can affirm that the combination of key entities, such as the "Dr. Julio F. Riobó" Research Center on Ancient Photography in Argentina (1985), the active Conferences on the History of Photography (from 1992 to the actuality) and the outstanding action of Fundación Antorchas, were outlining a new and valuable historical current that advanced steadily over the years. It is no coincidence, then, that the historical-photographic precursors Luis Priamo and Abel Alexander were recently incorporated into the National Academies of Fine Arts and History.

In a brief summary of the initial three decades, we can appreciate the enormous momentum that this new historical discipline has created; for example, the twelve Proceedings of the respective Congresses edited up to now include more than 500 research works, and only on the first hundred years of our photography; numerous Photographic Museums opened their doors; Several photo libraries have emerged - we highlight the one baptized "Benito Panunzi", from the National Library -, and the history of Argentine photography is currently being studied in various public and private universities in the country. In addition, the publication of excellent books on this subject has skyrocketed, we have enjoyed numerous exhibitions and conferences; new entities have been born, such as "Friends of the Chamber"; Courses on photographic preservation and conservation are given, and among these milestones we mention the long-awaited auctions and their catalogs-books of the antiquarian firm “Hilario. Arts, Letters, Trades”, along with a long etcetera.

Group portrait of a large part of the audience.

But as memories can sometimes fail, six decades away from these events, I turn to the testimony that I wrote in the "Introduction" of the First Report of the year 1992, when no one and despite our enthusiasm, could predict what would happen to future, especially with the irruption of the revolutionary digital photography that strengthened everything.



In August 1991, during an important local historical congress held at the headquarters of the Vicente López Medical Circle, we suddenly came up with the idea of ​​organizing an event with similar characteristics, but specifically dedicated to historical photography. On that occasion, Dr. Sergio Lugo, cultural manager of the entity, gave us his unconditional support so that this idea would be feasible and in that same house.

The Executive Committee was formed with the invaluable collaboration of friends Miguel Ángel Cuarterolo and Juan Gómez, the General Secretariat fell to Dr. Lugo himself and the institutional support was generously provided by the Argentine Federation of Photography (FAF), chaired by Walter Rodríguez. .

From the outset, the Executive Committee set out to achieve three basic objectives. 1) Achieve the effective participation of researchers and entities linked to photography throughout the country, thus assuming a clear federalist position. 2) Involve other prestigious historical institutions, convinced that this multidisciplinary task will bring about a fruitful academic exchange. 3) Carry out adequate national and international dissemination to promote the problem of old photography in all its aspects.

As the project developed, we became certain that the Congress was in fact a long-awaited need for many photography lovers of yesteryear. The constant adhesions and inscriptions gave us the idea that there was a real need for meeting and exchange between those who work alone and in isolation in the investigation and rescue of old images.

Finally, on May 23, 1992, the Congress was inaugurated with the assistance of more than 120 people from eight Argentine provinces and three representatives from Latin American countries.

During the breaks of those two days, historians, photographers, museologists, researchers and archivists were also able to appreciate exhibitions organized for this purpose, such as primitive images of authentic daguerreotypes and ambrotypes or urban and rural views that coexisted with stereoscopic viewers and cameras from the 19th century . In parallel, an exhibition on the photographic postcard dedicated to the history of medicine in the country was exhibited.

In another dependency, the successful 1st Historical Photographic Book Fair was held, where monographs, essays, books and catalogs were gathered, giving attendees the opportunity to make contact with bibliographical materials that were difficult to obtain until then.

We must thank the national and international press for the warm support given to this unprecedented initiative. The publication of interesting articles about the Congress allowed us to disseminate the different conclusions and positions of the attendees in a wide spectrum.

This Memory of the 1st Congress of the History of Photography in Argentina is now added to the few publications that, for half a century, were dedicated to this subject. In this sense, we must point out that, every time we inquire about the beginnings of the historical research of our photography, we invariably come across the gigantic figure of Dr. Julio F. Riobó, a passionate scholar and pioneer collector of daguerreotypes who, towards the decade of 1940 wrote and published the first essays on this subject.

To follow his example, today we present this new work that covers the first 100 years of photography in Argentina and we do so with the satisfaction of offering no less than 28 unpublished texts, which come from colleagues from Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Córdoba , San Juan, Mendoza, Chubut and Santa Cruz, enriched in turn by the Latin American contributions of three researchers from Uruguay, Brazil and Venezuela.

The variety of topics addressed makes this book a unique case within the very scarce specialized bibliography since, for the first time, 28 authors from different geographies have the opportunity to publish their works together in a single volume.

A brief analysis of the works indicates the diversity of topics addressed. Unknown aspects of the daguerreotype stage can be found in the interior of the country, revealing biographies of forgotten photographers; geographical and architectural records together with works dedicated to anthropology, but also to medical, war, mortuary or journalistic records; the irruption of social photography, railway testimonies and even the beginning of cinematography, as the beloved daughter of Monsieur Daguerre's invention.

It is important to indicate that the edition of this 1st Report was made possible thanks to the generosity of the firm Agfa Gevaert Argentina S.A., Fundación Antorchas and Femeba Salud, whose joint contributions were decisive and whom we sincerely thank.

If in the inaugural speech we pointed out that the Congress was a great national meeting, now we must add that this book - through its 500 copies - is the best testimony of those happy and stimulating days.

* Special for Hilario. Arts Letters Crafts

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