Alessandra Calò: Les Inconnues

6 February - 23 March 2024
Les Inconnues is a tribute to Anna Atkins and Constance Fox Talbot, the first two women to take photographs and illustrate books with photographic images. The protagonists of this work can be seen as the result of an investigation and an attempt to go back in time, as if to make contact with the female protagonists of the history of photography.

Les Inconnues (2018) by Alessandra Calò is a tribute to Anna Atkins and Constance Fox Talbot, two English ladies close to the scientific world of the Royal Society (Anna Atkins was also a member), who were the first to create photographs and illustrated books using photographic images (around 1840).


Alessandra Calò: "Through the use of light-sensitive emulsions and in domestic conditions - almost as if I wanted to recreate the actions of these pioneers of photography in the 19th century - I wanted to impress fragments of female images on the plate that look more like the materialisation of a dream than a real photographic portrait.

The printing process - in this case a gelatine silver print on crystal - allowed me to confront the natural element as well as the accidental, and to bring out the difficulty and humanity of the process, which does not have precision or flawlessness among its requirements.

It is also my personal reflection on the concept of the 'latent image'. The concept of time and the transformation of something immaterial into a visible form remain central aspects of my work and allow me to constantly reflect and dialogue with the material qualities of the medium of photography".


The young faces of Les Inconnues are the result of three digitally superimposed images. Negatives of each image are then made and printed on three crystal plates using an ancient photographic printing technique dating back to the first experiments in the mid-19th century.


The "layered" process of creating the digital image, sharp and perfect in its essence, is recreated to obtain an analogue image on crystal, with all the imperfections that characterise manual processing. The works in the Les Inconnues series are therefore available both as fine art prints on cotton paper (31 x 31 cm, edition 3) and as gelatine silver prints on backlit crystal (35 x 35 cm, edition 1/1).


Les Inconnues has been exhibited in Italy and abroad in private and institutional galleries: Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Madrid (solo exhibition), 2018; Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Paris (group exhibition), 2019; Museo Civico di Palazzo della Penna, Perugia (group exhibition), 2019; Photo d'Aix, Festival Photographique d'Aix en Provence, 2021.