At the origins of travel photography: the Robecchi Bricchetti Collection

of the Civic Museums of Pavia

African Adventure is an exhibition with a particular genesis. Starting from the title, which in the original project was much more generic. But after the first in-depth analysis, in fact, the more the iconographic research went on, the more we realized that the images that were viewed were produced by photographers who often made them in extreme conditions, in areas of the planet often unexplored and therefore potentially dangerous. Therefore the awareness that the dimension of the adventure should be associated with the original travel photography has matured, and that this dimension had to be communicated through the images shown. Not only. Those same images were an extraordinary, unpredictable and unknown example of reportage with the same aesthetic, testimony and research qualities of contemporary ones.


Something else was clear: many of the photographs depicted a reality, human and geographical, that would soon disappear. Not only the world of populations that had not yet been colonized and proudly maintained their original distinctive features witnessed by the images, but also that of western men in search of adventure with their ways and their mentality all tipically nineteenth-century and therefore unrepeatable. When we came across the Robecchi Bricchetti collection, put together by one of the protagonists of the time - the Italian explorer of Somalia Robecchi Bricchetti - we immediately realized we had in our hands the very material that allowed to communicate to the public everything all what the travel photography of the origins meant, and all the modernity that it already had in itself and that made it so comparable to the contemporary reportage. The Collection has therefore become the exhibition that we wanted to realize. And African Adventure its title.


The Robecchi Bricchetti collection consists of approx. 2000 shots dating back to the second half of the nineteenth century. The images were put together by Bricchetti during his travels, partly by making them himself, partly by purchasing them from the first European photographers who started shops  of photography on the Black Continent (the entrepreneurial challenge is added to the human challenge). It was donated to the Civic Museums of Pavia by Luigi Robecchi Bricchetti himself on condition that its availability to the public was guaranteed. Since then, however, the collection has never been cataloged nor restored, if not minimally. And very few of the images have been shown to the public.


The exhibition "African Adventure" shows about 60 reproductions of those images, most of them completely unpublished.


Curated by:

Alessandro Luigi Perna


Pictures of:

Civic Museums of Pavia

background photo of the page ©Civic Museums of the Visconti Castle of Pavia