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Venice Staircase, c. 1920's
Silver gelatin print on Paper
12 in. x 9 1/4 in. (30.48 cm x 23.5 cm)

Object Type: Photography
Technique: Gelatin silver Process
Credit Line: Gift of Sharon Walther Blasgen '64 and Michael Blasgen
Accession Number: 2005.11.3

Prior to the 1920s, only the wealthy few could take advantage of travel overseas, but with increases in wages, more and more Americans had the money to travel. Steamships and ocean liners opened up the world for discovery, and European travel became feasible for more people. In the mid-1920s, the invention of the 35-mm camera changed photography for good. No longer did photographers have to haul around bulky equipment or have their subjects posed for extended periods of time. With the 35-mm camera, photographers could take a picture inconspicuously in nearly no time at all. The few figures seen in midstride in this image suggest that this photograph was taken quickly and most likely with the new type of camera.
Unfortunately, there is not much known about the print, Venice Staircase, but we can speculate that it was taken by an American on vacation in Venice, Italy. We have no idea whether this photograph was taken for pleasure, to document travels, or to be viewed as fine art. Whatever the case, the photograph of the old city of Venice dramatically contrasts with the increased interests in urbanization and industrial society so prominent at the time. Here, modern technology is used to document a place that is centuries old. Venice Staircase is not only a fine example of photography in the early 20th century, but it could also be used as documentation of a breathtaking city—one that may be lost to us all too soon. Kaela Nurmi '15 Wilson Intern 2013

Toned silver gelatin print.

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