The camera was recognized immediately as a primary tool for the exploration of the human universe. From Anthropology to Medicine, from Psychiatry to Law, photography made it possible to fix, observe, analyze, and interpret data.

The nineteenth century was an era of expeditions in foreign lands in search of previously unknown peoples, who were to be observed and studied. Photography was an effective instrument for measurement of human types and at the same time an attentive eye capable of identifying the unique characteristics of diverse human cultures.

Paolo Mantegazza (1831-1910) used the camera continuously, both for his studies on the expression of human pain and in his travels for anthropological research. Both before and after Mantegazza, explorers set out to observe and photograph the other, with diverse approaches and outcomes.

Medical science had high expectations for the new technologies of optical reproduction. Having always depended upon drawing to fix what the eye observed, now photography appeared to medical researchers to be capable of revealing details invisible to the human eye while furnishing accurate and objective images.

Psychiatric hospitals soon equipped themselves with photographic laboratories with various functions: from adding photographs to the case files of patients to the comparative study of pathologies, as well as for teaching and documentation of the history and activities of the institutions themselves.

In Italy, notwithstanding its utilization by noted criminologist Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909), the forces of order were slow to recognize the contribution that photography could bring to criminal investigation. It was not until the first years of the next century that the camera became an integral component of a scientific approach to policing.