A man of many vocations: photographer, scientist, and more

A lawyer by profession, mayor of Casale Monferrato from 1881-1888, and passionate photographer, Francesco Negri carried on an incessant photographic career for more than a half-century, dedicated to the history of his town and the great changes that characterize the historical period he lived through.

A polymath endowed with curiosity and brilliance, Negri took up the study of optics, botany, microbiology, and art history, with photography as a constant support and tool for his research. His first scientific work was to explore the world beyond human vision: in 1866 he printed his First Micrographic View—Spider’s Leg, and continued through the 1880s with an intense production of “photomicrographic” plates. In 1884 he was able to photograph the cholera bacillus, which had only recently been discovered by Robert Koch (1843-1910), who, informed of Negri’s work, furnished him with material for further observations.

From 1880 Negri dedicated himself to long-distance photography, with a design for a telescopic lens which was advertised in 1896 in the Scientific-Artistic Journal as the “cutting-edge Negri-Koristka telescopic lens.”

In line with the advanced research of the era, he surrendered to the seductions of color photography, creating a number of outstanding three-color still-life images and landscapes in vivid, soft-edged tonalities.

His scientific vocation accompanied a jovial, ironic character, expressed particularly in his occult experiments using multiple exposures that sought to capture images of spirits.