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'FOTOGRAFE!': Project overview 2022

Historic and contemporary women together

“The 'FOTOGRAFE!' project celebrates the ways in which historic and contemporary women have been looking at the world through the lens of a camera – what they have chosen to see and how they have chosen to see themselves,” says Margie MacKinnon, co-founder and president of Calliope Arts, which gifted a development grant to Fondazione Alinari per la Fotografia, for archival research and the partial digitalisation of the Wulz Sisters and Edith Arnaldi archives at Fondazione Alinari per la Fotografia, in addition to contributing to the realisation of their special-focus rooms at the ‘Fotografe!’ exhibition. “The show combines two of the goals that underlie Calliope Arts’ mission,” MacKinnon continues. “We strive to highlight early works by women that have had only limited visibility and to create a dialogue between contemporary artists and their historical counterparts.”


Germaine Krull, Ballerina javanese, 1930 ca, Alinari Archives Florence

New perspectives on female achievement

‘Fotografe!’ represents the Florentine debut of Calliope Arts (, created in 2021 by Margie MacKinnon and Wayne McArdle, to promote and expand public knowledge and appreciation of art, literature and social history from a female perspective.


In the words of the co-curator

“The archives were our starting point for the Fotografe Project. Through research, we first sought to understand the Alinari archives, from the early twentieth century onwards,” explains co-curator Emanuela Sesti. “Nothing had ever been done with Edith Arnaldi’s archive, and there are nearly 10,000 negatives in the Alinari collection. Simply looking at the negative is not enough; we’ve done a first round of digitalisation, so we can now see her images, as if on a loop, in order to scrutinise every picture properly. This is the first stage of a larger research project, initiated thanks to a development grant by Calliope Arts, which also involves the Wulz Sisters, and the idea is to press forward with our partnership, even after the exhibition. Digitalisation is a key part of the process. The archive is enriched by becoming accessible.”


Edith Arnaldi-Rosa Rosà (Vienna 1884-Rome 1978), Young woman from Ciociara region

Female creativity and photography, a historic medium

“This partnership has enabled me to reflect on the fact that women began using cameras from the moment they were invented, and photography is a medium that has always been relatively accessible to women – unlike the traditional fine arts of painting and sculpture,” MacKinnon muses. “The timing of the advent of photography – in the mid-1800s – was favourable to women, coinciding with a gradual expansion of women’s freedom to become more active in the public sphere, and an increasing desire for independence.  Calliope Arts is delighted to support this exhibition and the continuing work of the Fondazione Alinari per la Fotografia in safeguarding its unique archive of work by women photographers, where we can truly rediscover their success stories.”

Read an interview with the exhbition's co-curator Emanuela Sesti in Restoration Conversations Magazine – Summer 2022.

This project was made possible thanks to organisers Fondazione Alinari per la Fotografia and CR Firenze, with the patronage of the Municipality of Florence and donors Calliope Arts.


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