The first twenty years after the invention of photography were marked by pioneers and experiments before the technical medium entered a phase of enormous dynamics. The foundation of the Photographic Society in Vienna in 1861 was a crucial event within the beginning professionalization of the production of pictures which was to pervade all spheres of life. Whether as scientific proof in a laboratory or studio portrait, a picture postcard in front of a tourist attraction or a large-size reproduction of a museums work of art, whether serving the purposes of industry, trade, or public administration - the photograph conquered new terrains in an ever more perfect quality and multiple numbers.
The members of the Photographic Society came from a wide range of professions and pursued many different objectives. Their regular meetings were not only aimed at an exchange of abstract technical knowledge, but increasingly at conceiving strategies for the enforcement of economic interests. This field of tension was also reflected in numerous exhibitions and the societys magazine Photographische Correspondenz. The involved lobbys pressure not only led to the foundation of the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt as the first institution of its kind in the world but also to the enactment of a copyright law for photographs. The mediums successful professionalization drove amateurs with artistic ambitions to found their own associations before 1900. While there was only little room for innovations in the scientific use of photography after World War I, outstanding teachers and, above all, students of the Graphische lent Austrian photography between the wars its own specific new profile.
Presenting about 260 outstanding examples of Austrian photography dating from before 1945, the exhibition in the Albertina will shed light on both the range and quality of the pictures produced by the Photographic Societys members. Exhibits from the fields of art, science, and innovative applications of commercial photography convey a fascinating impression of the paths leading into todays flood of images.