Ever since the so-called "collodion age" printed leaflets and catalogues have been produced by many photographic studios, especially those involved in documenting the art and architecture history heritage.

Since that time catalogues have played various decisive economic, commercial and cultural roles that strictly connect with and depend on the kind of producer and the category of user. They have served as a tool for organizing work and as a commercial mechanism, an object for consultation and study and, more recently, a privileged source for historical research. This kind of material may be viewed as the junction point between culture and the market.

Historians of art – and to a lesser extent architecture – have always relied heavily on such products; they have collaborated in various ways in drafting them, constantly consulted them in search of relevant images and, in recent years, regarded them as an essential source for cataloguing photographs and documenting art history. Not so the historian of photography whose attention to this repertory has been more sporadic. Only recently have we begun to witness a changeover from their practical use as works of reference to a more aware, more thoeretically grounded approach doing justice to photographers’ printed catalogues as complex objects. They can, of course, and should be studied from various angles, including their genesis, forms of layout and range of functions. Such wide-ranging expressions of particular professional and technological cultures chart the growing reciprocal influence among photography, art history research and awareness/safeguarding of the heritage.

The Zeri Foundation is planning a study event devoted to this new object of research. It will be an opportunity to compare the groundwork and breakthroughs of the pioneers with new and ongoing research. The call for papers would welcome treatment of topics such as (among others):

  • The catalogue as a conceptual model, a tool of work/trade/communication, with special regard to forms and styles of layout, the presence and role of text and also the range of photographic objects on offer.
  • The catalogue as a cultural map: geographical areas covered; inclusion/exclusion criteria and how these changed in time.
  • Catalogues and their sources, including art and tour-guide literature, with special reference to tie-ups between art history criticism and ways of featuring artworks (details, angles, sequences, etc.).
  • Catalogues and the public: travellers, artists and architects, scholars and institutions various.
  • The relationship between documenting a historical or contemporary heritage and the brief from those commissioning: architects, artists, art and architecture historians, institutions. 
  • Catalogue vs repertory: the relation between archive and catalogue, between the selection displayed in the catalogue and the photographer’s whole output; or again, reconstruction of the repertory of a photographic studio in parallel with, or in the absence of, printed catalogues.
  • Catalogues and other printed matter from photographers and photographic studios.
  • The catalogue as a vexed source: philological and historiographic problems posed by the habit of renumbering and tacitly replacing shots, often due to technological innovations in light sensitive materials, and how this ties up with styles of artwork ‘documentation’.

Rules for participating Participants will be expected to speak for 20-25 minutes, in Italian or English. 
Applications should be sent in by Thursday 8 March 2018 to: fondazionezeri.info@unibo.it. 
Applicants should include:

  • a max-500 word abstract of their proposed paper in Word format, either in Italian or in English
  • a short CV complete with list of main publications, institution belonged to (if any) and e-mail address.

Authors will be notified of the paper selection outcome by 6 April 2018.

The proceedings of the study days are scheduled for publication. 

The Federico Zeri Foundation will cover the speakers’ accommodation expenses at Bologna.