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Rescuing an Obscure Photographic Archive of Early 20th-Century Argentina

Annemarie Heinrich
Annemarie Heinrich’s photograph of a boat on the Parará river in Santa Fe, Argentina (1950) (via Estudio Heinrich Sanguinetti/British Library Endangered Archives)

When German-born photographer Annemarie Heinrich opened her first studio in 1930, her adopted country of Argentina was experiencing a time of change from old cultural practices to industrialization. Heinrich took hundreds of photographs of this transformation in Buenos Aires and across South America from the 1930s to ’50s. Now, many of those negatives, prints, and archives are at risk of disappearing.

Recently, the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme shared her digitized South America photographs online under a Creative Commons license. The release is part of a project called “A modern gaze on old cultural practices in Argentina: relocation and preservation of the ‘Heinrich Sanguinetti Archive’ (1930–1956),” initiated by Dr. Diana Wechsler with the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero in collaboration with the Archivo Heinrich Sanguinetti.

Annemarie Heinrich
Annemarie Heinrich, portrait of a young woman with a cat (nd) (via Estudio Heinrich Sanguinetti/British Library Endangered Archives) (click to enlarge)

As their project overview states, in Argentina “there is no organised and articulated policy regarding the conservation of photographic archives, either public or private ones. Many relevant visual archives are undergoing difficulties, if not total loss, because of the negligence of those responsible for their care.” They cite the Heinrich Sanguinetti Archive as one of these at-risk resources, due to “the physical conditions in which this archive stands (inappropriate storage, humidity, and heat conditions, and the invisibility of this collection to the public).”

Heinrich, who passed away in 2005 in Argentina after living in the country since 1926 after her family fled World War I, was well-known as a celebrity photographer in Buenos Aires, like for her portrait of a young actress named Eva Duarte, future Eva Perón. Posthumously, she’s becoming better-recognized for her bold nudes, such as those featured in the recent Annemarie Heinrich: Secret Intentions at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA). That exhibition framed her 1930s to ’60s photography as a precursor of the women’s liberation movement in their construction. None of these nudes were public while she was alive, due to their radical nature — her studio was once raided once in the 1940s by Péron forces, who also took what they could of Eva’s portraits to be destroyed.

The Endangered Archives images also show Heinrich as a deft photographer of the everyday lives of both urban and rural people in Argentina, from the busy modernized streets of Buenos Aires, to indigenous culture still thriving near the base of the Andes. As Hyperallergic reported last year, the Endangered Archives has, from its launch in 2004 to 2015, added over four million images to its online initiative. Work like the obscure photographs of Annemarie Heinrich demonstrate the valuable visual culture that is still on the brink of disappearing without archival attention.

Annemarie Heinrich
Annemarie Heinrich, street scene in Argentina (nd) (via Estudio Heinrich Sanguinetti/British Library Endangered Archives)
Annemarie Heinrich
Annemarie Heinrich, a Buenos Aires zookeeper with penguins (nd) (via Estudio Heinrich Sanguinetti/British Library Endangered Archives)
Annemarie Heinrich
Annemarie Heinrich, workers at the port of Mar del Plata, Argentina (1948) (via Estudio Heinrich Sanguinetti/British Library Endangered Archives)
Annemarie Heinrich
Annemarie Heinrich, the Junta de Indios festivities in Chile (1934) (via Estudio Heinrich Sanguinetti/British Library Endangered Archives)
Annemarie Heinrich
Annemarie Heinrich, horses in rural Argentina (nd) (via Estudio Heinrich Sanguinetti/British Library Endangered Archives)
Annemarie Heinrich
Annemarie Heinrich, a scene in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1950s) (via Estudio Heinrich Sanguinetti/British Library Endangered Archives)
Annemarie Heinrich
Annemarie Heinrich, scene at Delta de Tigre, Argentina (1946) (via Estudio Heinrich Sanguinetti/British Library Endangered Archives)
Annemarie Heinrich
Annemarie Heinrich, a scene in Delta de Tigre, Argentina (1946) (via Estudio Heinrich Sanguinetti/British Library Endangered Archives)

View more photographs by Annemarie Heinrich online at the British Library Endangered Archives

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