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Giorgio Sommer, Photographer

Giorgio Sommer (1834-1914) was an early pioneer of photography in Naples. He was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. After beginning his career in Switzerland, he moved to Naples in 1857and opened a photographic studio. His first major works were from the battlefields of the wars of Italian unification, particularly the siege of Gaeta in early 1861, when the last Bourbon forces fell to the army of the new nation of Italy. He also documented for the new government the subsequent suppression of residual banditry in the south (“bandits” usually meaning Bourbon holdouts who refused to lay down their arms).

Sommer’s main activity, however, was the kind of photography more attractive to tourists: landscapes and photographs of Greek and Roman ruins as well as photographic reproductions of paintings. He also manufactured reproductions of ancient vases and other artifacts. Sommer also photographed on Malta, in Sicily, Rome, Florence and Milan. He displayed internationally and received a number of awards.

His photography of Naples between 1865 and 1900 is interesting; there is always Mt. Vesuvius waiting to provide a spectacular shot every few decades, but Sommer also provides views of the city before the Risanamento, the great wave of urban renewal that started in the mid-1880’s.

Below, left: The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in April of 1872. Below, right: The port of Naples. The Maschio Angioino castle is visible on the left; the city hall is the large building in the distant center of the photo. Today's  familiar main square Piazza Municipio has not yet been built. The photo is from around 1865.






[Also see Early Photography in Naples]


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