Authenticity and Reproducibility: Conservation Strategies for Contemporary Photography

The technological and material developments in the production of contemporary fine art photography result frequently in unseen condition changes of these artworks. Significant research has been conducted for the understanding of deterioration processes and the development of adequate preventive conservation measures for these photographic and printed materials. However, when photographic artworks request interventive conservation, conservators are often faced with practical and ontological limitations. In these current situations, alternative methods such as reproduction are being considered, notwithstanding questioning our traditional approaches to conservation.

The state-of-the-art conservation on contemporary photography has placed ‘reproduction as a conservation tool’ on the table. Discussions over the concept of authenticity on those reproduced artworks have raised between the public, artists, conservators, curators and printing lab specialists. Those discussions are affecting not just the conservation approach but also the production making process and the art market sphere. Correspondingly, the modern conservation decision-making process seems to be influenced in variable percentages by the voices of different stakeholders, ontological questions, and technological factors.

This study examines conservation and reproduction for contemporary photography on the museum environment. On the basis of collaboration, and within the context of the established Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice and the evolution of the photographic medium, this research will explore ontological limitations and technical challenges related to fine art photography reproduction. The research case-studies belong the renowned ‘Düsseldorf School of Photography’ artists and are found in various museums worldwide.

This investigation is expected to discuss why reproduction is performed regularly on contemporary photography, how is done and who is involved in the process. In addition, it is intended to develop an understanding of the multiple and variable values of authenticity that can be found in a single artwork and which may influence the conservation decision-making process. This ongoing research aims to provide a flexible guideline to help photographic custodians navigating complicated decision-making processes and to foment multidisciplinary discussions and collaborative research.


Marta Garcia Celma

Marta Garcia Celma is a conservator specialized in the conservation of photographic materials. She holds a Master’s degree in Paper Conservation by Camberwell College of Arts (London) and a BA+MA in Fine Arts and Photography by Universitat de Barcelona (Spain) and Willem de Kooning Academie (The Netherlands). In 2014 Marta was awarded with the Icon Internship in photographic materials and preventive conservation, UK. In 2015 she was a recipient of June Baker Trust’s grant scheme for the development of Emerging Conservators in Scotland.

Home Institution
CICS – Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences
Cologne University of Applied Sciences
Cologne, Germany

Prof. Dr. Gunnar Heydenreich, Cologne University of Applied Sciences
Prof. dr. Julia Noordegraaf, Department of Media Studies, University of Amsterdam

Project Partners

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