President Barroso’s foreword to Encyclopaedia on History of European Photography


Photography can be very powerful in conveying meaning, able to combine directness of message and complexity of argument. Certain symbolic images summarise the European project – the shot of French President François Mitterrand and German Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl joining hands at the memorial service for fallen soldiers in Verdun, 70 years after the start of the First World War, or the images representing the lifting of borders between Member States after the entry into force and subsequent extension to 25 European countries of the Schengen Agreement.


This encyclopaedia brings together the best national expertise in an extensive history of European photography. By drawing on the histories of photography in the various European countries, the encyclopaedia builds a narrative that demonstrates how vision becomes more complete and accurate when there is amultiplicity of focuses.


This is an initiative that contributes to a deeper understanding of Europe. Europe was the cradle of photography, and its invention has proven to be one of the most remarkable moments in history. By capturing pictures of changing instants, photography allows us to build bridges with the past and with far away places and people. It permits us to observe and make sense of the development of European history and the significance of the European project, an unprecedented period of peace and stability in many countries.


Europe, as a physical and cultural space, has been an infinite source of inspiration for photographers. Thus, an analysis of the major photographic production in European countries also provides a comprehensive view and an insight on the cultural diversity of Europe. It illustrates the incredible richness of variety of cultural expressions, but also the great similarities across our countries. “Unity in diversity” – these words sum up the heart of what Europe is about. The European Union is a community of cultures and values built on the principle of respect for cultural diversity.


Our common cultural heritage is one of the forces that will drive us into the future and will help us to meet the challenges of our time. Creativity and innovation can play a central role in helping the European Union recover from the current economic crisis. Creative talent is one of the cornerstones of an innovative society and the cultural industries themselves have plenty of untapped potential to act as a motor for the European economy.


This encyclopaedia shows that photography does much more than narrating reality. It reflects a form of art, an expression of creative talent and is per se part of  the European cultural heritage. Through the history of European photography we can all celebrate in the creativity and diversity that have always been at the heart of the European project.


Jose Manuel Barroso