Prof. Nicoletta Leonardi

Brera Academy of Fine Arts, Milan

Nicoletta Leonardi is a full professor at Brera Academy of Fine Arts (Milan), where she teaches photographic history and curates the photographic collection. She is also curator of the photographic collection at Albertina Academy of Fine Arts (Turin). Her work is based on the overcoming of the history of photography as a medium-specific discipline in favour of a systemic approach to the study of different media as an integrated field of technologies, networks, and artefacts. Her writings have been published extensively in exhibition catalogues, peer reviewed journals and edited volumes. She has authored two monographs, Il paesaggio americano dell’Ottocento: pittori, fotografi, pubblico (Donzelli 2003) and Fotografia e materialità in Italia: Vaccari, Guidi, Cresci, Ghirri (Postmedia 2013), and co-edited (with Simone Natale) Photography and Other Media in the Nineteenth Century (Penn State UP 2018). Before completing her PhD at UCL, she was a Fulbright Fellow at Columbia University.

  • Photography and Science and technology studies
  • Photography and the History of medicine
  • Photography and artistic education in the 19th century
  • Material culture studies
  • Photography and Cultural heritage preservation studies
  • Media Archaeology
  • Photographic archives

I am currently completing a monograph on photography, biological theories of crime and communications media in Italy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with chapters on: the relationship between visual representations and textual and statistical descriptions of pellagra in scientific print; the remediation of photographs into other media (drawings, engravings, lithographs) within criminal anthropology; the use of photographs of southern Italian female brigands from the popular domain as scientific data for the setup of representational norms for the criminal woman “type”; photography, psychiatry in law in Callisto Grandi’s mediatic trial; phototelegraphy, the Italian colonial imaginary and colonial policing.

I am writing an article on cameraless spirit photography, presentification, and gullibility in the Italian Positivist scientific laboratory. 

I am also conducting research on photographic collections in Italian art academies with a focus on the use of photographs as a tool for teaching architecture and the decorative and applied arts between the 1860s and the 1920s. 

With a team of curators and scholars at the Medici Archive Project, I am working on an exhibition about the Jews in Florence before and during the Medici Grand Ducal period to be held at Palazzo Pitti in 2022-2023. My area of expertise is the photographic documentation of the late nineteenth century demolitions resulting from the so-called “redevelopment” of Florence’s old city centre, which included the Ghetto. 


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