11 February 2009 - 24 May 2009

The exhibition explores the use of photography in 19th-century science, and focuses on images of phenomena unseen by the naked eye.


Modern science and photography both flowered in the first half of the 19th century.  Photography was adopted as a scientific tool from the moment of its invention in 1839. As the century progressed, scientists used the microscope, the telescope and X-rays to capture images of previously hidden realms both infinitesimally small and unimaginably large. Through photography they analysed motion, peered into distant galaxies, and penetrated the human body.

Photography and the Invisible assembles 200 photographs and photographically illustrated books, most of which have never before been shown in Austria. Highlights of the exhibition include some of the earliest microscopic daguerreotypes; photographs by Henry Fox Talbot and Auguste-Adolphe Bertsch; Jules Janssen’s chronograph of the transit of Venus in 1874 (on a circular daguerreotype plate); motion studies by Eadweard Muybridge and Étienne-Jules Marey; early X-ray photographs by Josef Maria Eder and Eduard Valenta; spirit photographs by Louis Darget; and photographs made using a process of colour photography based on interference that was developed by the physicist Gabriel Lippmann, who received a Nobel Prize for its invention.

The exhibition was organised by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), with the generous support of the George Frederick Jewett Foundation. It will be shown at the Albertina, supplemented with works from the Albertina’s Photographic Collection.

An exhibition catalogue, Fotografie und das Unsichtbare 1840-1900 ( Photography and the Invisible, 1840-1900), with essays by Corey Keller, Tom Gunning, Jennifer Tucker and Maren Gröning, will be available in English and German. The beautifully reproduced plates are divided into six sections, each with a text describing important innovators of the period and the methods they used to produce their images.





Auguste-Adolphe Bertsch

Male Itch Mite, c. 1853-57 
William Henry Fox Talbot

Photomicrograph of Moth Wings, c. 1840 
A. H. Binden

Lightning, 1888 
Henri van Heurck

X-ray of a Hand with a Ring, 1896 
Josef Maria Eder and Eduard Valenta

Chamaeleon Cristatus, 1896 
Hermann Schnauss

Electrograph of a Brass Wire Gauge, 1900 
Arthur E. Durham

Photomicrograph of a Fly, c. 1865 
Arthur E. Durham

Photomicrograph of a Flea, 1863 or 1864 
Eadweard Muybridge

Bouquet with Rider, c. 1887 
Andreas Ritter von Ettingshausen

Cross-Section of a Clematis, 4 March 1840 
Étienne-Jules Marey

Fragment of a Chronometric Filmstrip of a Running Mastiff 
Alexander Halpern

Lightning Photograph, 1913 
Albert Obermayer

Atomisation of a 10 cm-long Iron Wire By a Strong Electric Current, 1893 or earlier 
Hermann Schnauss

Electrograph of a Hand, 1900 
Hermann Schnauss

Electrograph of a Hand, 1900