Reflections on Europeana Photography

Reflections on Europeana Photography

ph. The rise of Santo Domingo and the stairs that lead to the church of St. Martí Sacosta, Girona, 1930-1940. Desconegut. Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain.

blog written by Douglas McCarthy on June 5, 2017 

Europeana Photography, our latest thematic collection, features over 2 million images from the first 100 years of photography. The collection is curated by Photoconsortium and today Fred Truyen, Antonella Fresa and Sofie Taes share their personal reflections on photography and their hopes for the collection.

From its beginning, photography has pushed boundaries. Technical and technological boundaries, for one: continuous advancements of a chemical, physical, and mechanical nature have enabled cameras to capture the world with increasing quality and detail. Never before could reality be documented with such a sense of authenticity and nearness.

On an artistic and aesthetic level as well, photographic images have opened up new possibilities and directions. In an unremitting dialogue with the visual arts, photography at first augured to become the most effective tool of artists in pursuit of realism, but quickly revealed its creative, imaginative powers: by adapting lighting or exposure, adding color or using specific lenses, photographers proved able to transform a seemingly ordinary representation of everyday life into an ingenious work of art – in its turn inspiring and invigorating painters and sculptors.

Photography has made geographic borders fade: images from exotic destinations have brought faraway places palpably close, while homely pictures and portraits of loved ones became powerful antidotes to melancholy and nostalgia. To photography we owe a broader view and deeper knowledge of physical reality too: as early as the mid-19th century, photomicrography exposed elements invisible to the naked eye.

From the second half of the 19th century onwards, images taken from hot-air balloons stimulated a panoramic worldview, while – starting in the 1920s – colored underwater photos uncovered a whole new realm of nature. Photographs have not only erased boundaries of space, but also of time: images can erase breaches in family history, fix damaged or lost memories, bring the past into the present or take us way back.

Japanese dancers in a studio photographed by an unknown artist (1880-1890). Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, CC0.


In all its capacities and throughout history, photography has built bridges between nations and individuals: by showing life as it is or was, showcasing people’s characteristics and idiosyncrasies, pictures highlight apparent differences, but lay bare common foundations as well. In dealing with life’s joys and sorrows, all men turn out much alike.

We hope that you’ll join us in experiencing this slice of Europe’s cultural heritage as a celebration of our shared (hi)stories, as an ode to the accomplishments of photography and – most of all – as an inspirational hub for countless hours of joyful browsing!

Discover Europeana Photography

Read the blog on

View other posts:

Subscribe to Our Newsletter


Photoconsortium, International Consortium for Photographic Heritage

Via della Bonifica 69, 56037 Peccioli, Pisa, Italy


Photoconsortium is recognised as a legal person by the Pisa Prefecture, territorial office of the Italian government.


Disclaimer / Privacy Policy