With the rise of amateur photography, the occasions for taking photographs became less formal. This also applied to the academic field. Institute celebrations, trips and even carnival parties offer popular motifs for photo opportunities. This trend can also be witnessed in the people photographed. They appear to be a lot more relaxed, are shown having lively conversations, with cigarettes and beer bottles a frequently reoccurring motif.

Finally, more and more people come into the picture who do not represent the highest level of university hierarchy: doctoral students, institute staff, and on occasion, cleaning staff.

With the invention of photographic film and the production of handy compact cameras in the 1890’s, photography developed into a widely used medium. There was no need to go to a studio if you wanted to have your picture taken. An increasing number of people owned a camera themselves, showing personal perspectives of university life.

Whereas earlier studio photographs showed the person being portrayed as stiff and serious, the snapshot created pictorial motifs of everyday life and private scenes.

Collections of such snapshots, for instance in form of a photo album or a ring binder can also be found within the structure of the university. Preserved in institutions or university facilities, they create a community and encourage a tradition in the respective institution.


The household family album is used to collect portraits of family members as well photographs of important events. Similar trends can be witnessed at University institutions. In addition to photos of individuals, above all, there are also photos of festive occasions such as birthday celebrations, trips or academic graduation ceremonies. Unlike official photos, these images offer an insight into previously hidden perspectives of participants. Irrespective of the context in which they were created, their selection, arrangement and inscription place the individual images in a larger institutional context and allow them to become part of a semi-public representation of a faculty or chair.


Studio, as well as amateur photography existed as individual pieces but were also collected in albums. Photo albums were on the one hand used to preserve personal memories and on the other, as a representational device for the middle-class family. They play a central role in the formation and consolidation of individual and collective identities. Whilst assembling and arranging photographs, a life story or a community is drafted and a respective audience is addressed. Thus, within the album, individually portrayed people evolve into a group or an institution, that is able to be experienced simply by looking through the album.

„Wissenschaftlichkeit in der Amateurfotografie: vom Hörsaal bis zur Faschingsfeier” a paper (in German language) by Henriette Roth (PDF), written as a student contribution to the seminar accompanying the exhibition.

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