The Tucher family and consorts: 100 years of portrait photography

Life in the 21st century is shaped more by images than ever before. Photographs can be taken at any time using smartphone cameras. Yet portrait photographs are omnipresent, hardly a modern subject, but almost as old as photography itself. The large collection of historical portrait photography of the Tucher family in Nuremberg, which is presented here on the basis of selected examples, spans a period of about 100 years.

Since the French state made photography a gift to the world in 1839 by acquiring the rights to Daguerre and Niépce's process and making it available to the public, it spread rapidly and soon became a defining medium. At first the formats and techniques were highly individual but with the advent of paper photography, certain varieties came to the fore. Carte de visite or visiting card photography, for example, made it possible to take small, inexpensive portrait photographs using special lens and exposure techniques from 1854 onwards, which were exchanged and presented among family, friends and acquaintances. It represents a large part of the baronial von Tucher family's collection.

About three quarters of the photographs in this collection date from the 19th century. The characteristics of photography during this period are broadly covered and examples of numerous phenomena are offered.

The formats range from visiting cards to large formats. Overpainting, retouching and the use of supporting cardboard indicate the technical aspects. If you look at the photo composition with the typical props, backdrops and poses, you can also recognise patterns in the content, although there is still scope for customisation. This diversity is the subject of the first part of the exhibition.

The second part introduces important members of the former Nuremberg patrician family, the Tuchers, in the 19th century. Aspects of the family history are picked up on and explained based on these personalities.

What's more, the option of viewing all the objects as a gallery offers a chance to spot the patterns in 19th-century photography with your own eyes and at the same time discover the individuality of the people depicted and their portraits.

Lisa Reinhard

About the exhibition