Realism: Photography as Mean of Art or of Science. Research in the CCA Archive of Photography of Ruins after Catastrophes: Earthquake, Flood and Fire

The research
focused on the memory of ruins caused by disasters, ruins of the moment, as
Constanze Baum sais, created in a moment of the disaster and removed through
reconstruction. Such ruins after the catastrophes in the 19th century are
richly represented in the archive of the Canadian Centre for Architecture. The research
dealt with the subject of conserving in photography the destruction of architecture
when a catastrophic event occurs. Conservation of the moment of the catastrophe
in photography survived time, unlike the ruin itself. Dealt with are approaches
by means of artistic projects for assuring the access to such memory. The
preference for illustration of ruins in the Romantic Movement led to a focus on
19th century photography of such events, and to the confrontation of how the
same issues and documentary photography are seen today, supported by digital

Notable 19th
century photographers who photographed such subjects were:

– for
earthquake: Arnold Genthe, Robert Macpherson, Eadweard Muybridge, R.J. Waters
& Co (publisher), James Stoddard and Willard Worden;

– for fire: J.
Andrieu, Edouard Baldus, George N. Barnard, James Wallace Black, Robert Burley,
Alfred Capel-Cure, Franck, Frederick Gutekunst, Brian Merrett, A. Richebourg,
C. Seaver Jr., John P. Soule and William Notman & Son;

– for flood:
Edouard Baldus, G. Herbert Bayley, Alexander Henderson and Charles Rudd;

– for volcanic
activity Giorgio Sommer;

– for thunder
Alfred Capel-Cure;

– for the
Paris Commune: Gustave Le Gray, J. Andrieu, Bruno Braquehais, Albert Fernique,
Franck, C. Jung, A. Richebourg and Charles Soulier.

The events
covered are:

– Earthquake: San Francisco 1906, USA;
Norcia, Italy and Antigua;

– Fire: Boston 1860, USA; St.
Claude, France; Paris (Commune), France; Philadelphia, USA; Louisiana, USA;
Notre Dame de Montreal, Canada; Chicago, USA; Quebec, Canada; Illinois, USA;
Portland (Maine), USA (stereo);

– Flood: Norwich 1878, England;
Latchford 1890, England; Waburton 1891; Johnstown 1889; Avignon, France;
Montreal, Canada; Conemaugh, USA; Brisbane, Australia;

– Volcanic activity: Pompei

  • Website : http://
  • Project start : 2010
  • Project end : 2010
  • Contact Person : Maria BOSTENARU DAN
  • Funding Agency : Canadian Centre for Architecture