Elisabeth Tonnard

Posts Tagged ‘photothek



Recently the book Foto-Objekte (Photo Objects) was published, for which I wrote a short essay-with-photos titled ‘More Than A Few Glimpses Of Its Charms’ documenting this work.

The book, which is mostly in German, brings together contributions about work on and with “photo objects” from four photo archives in Berlin and Florence. This compilation is supplemented by the perspectives of various artists (Johannes Braun & Toby Cornish, Ola Kolehmainen, Joachim Schmid, Elisabeth Tonnard, Akram Zaatari).

Some info from the press release:

In ordinary conversation and frequently in scientific jargon, photographs are referred to as images. Usually, they are only perceived as surfaces. But aren’t they a great deal more?

Photographs are constantly being handed around, written on, cut up, framed, pasted on boxes on into albums, printed out and mailed in envelopes, swiped on smartphones, or uploaded onto the Internet. They are exchanged, thrown away, sometimes torn up or deleted. Photographs are not just images, but material objects as well. They are not only looked at, they are also handled.

Archeologists, anthropologists, ethnologists, and art historians began working with photographs in the nineteenth century, collecting them in archives. Mechanically produced images promised objectivity. Based on this supposedly neutral evidence, scientists developed their own methods and practices that remain fundamental to this day, with some now digitalized. Precisely because of their lasting importance, these practices must always be questioned in both their historical and contemporary dimensions. It was archival procedures, such as ordering, notating, and classifying, which first made photographs useful documents for research. Therefore, photographs are neither objective, nor timeless: rather, they have stories of their own. In order to be able to tell these stories, we have to consider photographs as objects, not just as images. These are the methodical, theoretical propositions behind the Foto-Objekte (Photo Objects) project and the essays in this eponymous volume. They deal with the visual contents of the photographs, as well as the boxes they come in, their stamps, inscriptions, spots, blemishes, and other traces of their functionality and how they were used over time.

Kerber Verlag
ISBN 978-3-7356-0477-4
22,00 × 28,00 cm
240 Pages
Hardcover, bound
Languages: German, English (partly)

Julia Bärnighausen, Costanza Caraffa, Stefanie Klamm, Franka Schneider, Petra Wodtke

Texts by
Julia Bärnighausen, Johannes Braun, Costanza Caraffa, Toby Cornish, Ute Dercks, Almut Goldhahn, Stefanie Klamm, Ola Kolehmainen, Nora Riediger, Joachim Schmid, Franka Schneider, Elisabeth Tonnard, Petra Wodtke, Akram Zaatari

Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

July 22, 2020 at 3:44 pm

Posted in News

Tagged with , ,

Invitation exhibition Unboxing Photographs

For those in Berlin, here is the invitation to the opening of the show ‘Unboxing Photographs’ that I will have work in at the Kulturforum/Kunstbibliothek. Hope to see you there.


Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

February 2, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Exhibition Unboxing Photographs

I’m developing a new installation titled More Than A Few Glimpses Of Its Charms. The work will be exhibited at the Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, from February 16 to May 27 as part of the show ‘Unboxing Photographs: Work in the Photo Archive’.

More about this show below or follow this link. For those of you in Berlin: the opening will take place at the Kunstbibliothek on February 15.

More Than A Few Glimpses Of Its Charms consists of 18 different series of found used postcards in which each series is based on the same photograph. There are 18 different photographs but together nearly 100 different postcards in the installation. The cards in each series show slight visual differences; the color is changed by age or by variations/manipulations in the print runs, sometimes there are signs visible of how the card went through the mail system or was tacked to a wall. The photos are the same, the actual objects and the meaning they had for the senders and receivers are not. The installation is completed by texts in four languages drawn from the backs of the postcards.

About the exhibition ‘Unboxing Photographs’

The exhibition opens the boxes of four photo archives to showcase the material diversity of photographs as three-dimensional objects: from glass plate negatives, to 35 mm film, to prints on albumin or silver gelatin paper. These photo-objects are taken in the hand, tilted and turned over, labeled, cut down, framed, glued into albums, printed, and dispatched or posted online. Contact and inventory sheets, cardboard mounts, card catalogs, and today even display screens are integral parts of the photo-object, or even constitute it.


Window with cutout image
© Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut

Since the 19th century, archaeologists, ethnologists, and art historians have worked with photographs and assembled them in archives. There, they are processed and ordered – and only through such treatment do they become usable as documents for scholarly research. These procedures alter the physical properties of photographs and leave behind material traces. Photographs, hence, are neither objective nor timeless. By taking them seriously as objects, and not just as pictures, it becomes possible to tell their multifarious stories.

The exhibition interrogates the commonly practiced and disciplinary conventions that govern the perception and presentation of photographs – for example museum display using passepartouts – and tries out new design possibilities. Work with photo-objects is also central to the artistic interventions of JUTOJO, Ola Kolehmainen, Joachim Schmid, Elisabeth Tonnard, and Akram Zaatari, all of which have been integrated into the exhibition.


Vase with Corsini-Medici coat of arms
© Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut


Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

January 11, 2018 at 5:27 pm

In the photo archive


In March 2016 I had the opportunity to do a two week research residency together with Joachim Schmid at the Photothek in Florence. The Photothek is part of the Kunsthistorisches Institut, established in 1897. It is a library filled with photographs of artworks and architecture. A short text that we wrote about our stay is available here on the blog Foto-Objekte that aims to explore the scholarly potential of photo archives.

Written by Elisabeth Tonnard

May 11, 2016 at 10:28 am

Posted in News

Tagged with , , ,