Documenting History, Charting Progress and Exploring the World: Architecture in 19th c. Photography

James Valentine & Sons (British, 1880–1969), <em>Forth Bridge from the North</em>, 1890, albumen silver print. Janos Scholz Collection of Nineteenthth-Century European Photographs

James Valentine & Sons (British, 1880–1969), Forth Bridge from the North, 1890, albumen silver print. Janos Scholz Collection of Nineteenthth-Century European Photographs

SNITE Museum of Art September 5–October 31, 2010

Heavily represented in collections of nineteenth-century photographs, architectural photography provides insights into major themes of the period: industry, technology, exploration, exoticism, documentation, preservation, history, nationalism, etc. 


Architecture lent itself to the long exposure times required by the early photographic processes and was a subject used extensively by the first generation of photographers. A genuine understanding of the first decades of architectural photography needs to allow for the relevant technical parameters of production, but also demands that each photographic image of architecture be studied as a primary visual document and, as well, as an aesthetic object.


The Janos Scholz Collection of 19th-Century European Photography affords an opportunity for this multi-faceted exploration. Nearly 10,000 in number, the collection includes representative examples of significant categories of nineteenth-century photography with particular strength in architecture. Most of the material originates from France and England, but the rest of the world is included. Driven more by the curiosity of a social historian than by the eye of a connoisseur, this exhibition reveals the wealth of information captured by nineteenth-century photographers as they turned their lenses toward architecture. 

The guest curator of this exhibition was Micheline Celestine Nilsen, assistant professor of art history, Ernestine M. Raclin School of the Arts, Indiana University South Bend.

Download the exhibition catalogue:

View a PDF of the symposium agenda Documenting History, Charting Progress, Exploring the World: 19th-Century Photographs of Architecture, 10/3-10/4/2010.