More than 300.000 pictures in black in white belong to Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche, all originally owned by the archive of Venice’s main photographic agency: Agenzia Photografica Cameraphoto.
Vittorio Pavan and Carlo Pescatori tell us about how they carry out the monumental task of cataloguing and developing this immense archive by making it entirely available to the public on the following website: www.archiviocameraphoto.com. They provide insights into the relatively new theme of digital cataloguing in Italy.
Please tell us exactly what is Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche and how the idea originated?
Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche is the historical archive of the Agenzia Fotografica Cameraphoto, which was active in Venice from 1946 until 1987. For forty years it was the biggest Photographic Agency in Venice and did not have any rivals in its territory. Its reporters would travel all the way to USA, Japan, Spain, France etc…, wherever there was something important to document. From 1987 onwards Agenzia Cameraphoto stopped doing reportages and dedicated itself to the reproduction of works of art and restorations, exhibition catalogues and so on. In 2000, the material was divided between the actual Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche that preserves the historical material (Reportages, Costumes, Fashion, Events etc.) and Archivio Cameraphoto Arte, which owns the more recent images that we just described. Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche has about 30.000 negatives on film of various formats (from 13×18 mm) and on glass sheets.
What are your objectives and where do you see yourselves in fifty years?
Our objective is to divulge the existence of the Archivio and merchandise its images and then, to reinvest part of the earnings in its conservation. The negatives are not preserved in acid free containers and the old ones are deteriorating due to the instability of the polymeric emulsion support: we scan the ones most exposed to this risk, however their large number makes this task extremely difficult. In fifty years, we expect to see the archive well preserved and catalogued, available to everyone through our website.
How do you manage to finance your activities?
Our activity at the Archivio doesn’t finance itself; we are therefore obliged to fund it with a part of our earnings from other jobs.
What systems do you use to archive?
The negatives are archived in the original sheets, which were produced during the decades of activity of the photographic agency. We have copied this information on an electronic form that tracks where the photo and its content are. This is an on-going process: in addition to the name of the “service” or situation/event that originally described every single group of snaps, we are also correcting typing mistakes and adding other information (names of the people depicted, date, place) that were not present in the original forms, but transcribed on notes attached to the negatives in their containers. The high-resolution scans are kept in a double copy on two twin hard disks in files that transcribe the name of the person/situation/event and the box where the original negative is kept.
What do you think about the Italian situation towards the digital archiving of cultural archives? What would you change?
The current situation seems to be left on its own and up to the initiative of the single individual. Safeguarding and preserving the historical archives should be financed as part of a protection plan of the national artistic heritage.
What methods do you use for printing photographic material?
Our negatives are unique works; the prints that we make are not a limited edition except for fifty that we chose to limit.
What do you think about the authentication of the photograph and the systems that are used?
In our case, since we keep the negative from which the image was reproduced and the exclusive right to its print; our Copyright recognises where it comes from. The Fine Art authentication, when asked for, affects the price of the print and therefore it is rarely requested.
This post is also available in: Italian