Monday’s Photography Inspiration – Sommer and Behles

Sommer and Behles was a 19th-century Italian photography studio created by the partnership of photographers Giorgio Sommer (1834-1914) and Edmund Behles (1841-1924). Studios were located in Rome at No. 28 Mario di Fiori, and in Naples at No. 4 Monte di Dio. Each photographer had independent careers and studios prior to and following the partnership which began in 1867 and was dissolved in 1874.

Giorgio Sommer was born in Frankfurt am Main (modern-day Germany), and became one of Europe’s most important and prolific photographers of the 19th century. Active from 1857 to 1888, he produced thousands of images of archeological ruins, landscapes, art objects and portraits. After studying business in Frankfurt, Sommer opened his first photography studio in Switzerland, where he made relief images of mountains for the Swiss government. In 1856 moved his business to Naples and later (1866) formed a partnership with fellow German photographer Edmund Behles (also known as Edmondo Behles) who owned a studio in Rome. Operating from their respective Naples and Rome studios, Sommer and Behles became one of the largest and most prolific photographers in Italy.

Piazza Navona (Roma)

Casa di Diomede. Pompei, 1855 - 1865.

He had studios in Naples at: * Strada di Chiaia 168 * Via Monte di Dio 4 and 8 * Piazza della Vittoria Sommer’s catalog included images from the Vatican Museum, the National Archeological Museum at Naples, the Roman ruins at Pompeii, as well as street and architectural scenes of Naples, Florence, Rome, Capri and Sicily. Most notably, Sommer published his comprehensive album Dintorni di Napoli which contained over one hundred images of everyday scenes in Naples. 

Cattedrale Palermo, 1865 - 1870.

Tivoli Cascatelli, 1865 - 1870.

In April 1872, he documented a very large eruption of Mount Vesuvius in a series of stunning photographs. Sommer and Behles exhibited extensively and earned numerous honors and prizes for their work (London 1862, Paris 1867, Vienna 1873, Nuremberg 1885).

At one time, Sommer was appointed official photographer to King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy. Sommer was involved in every aspect of the photography business. He published his own images that he sold in his studios and to customers across Europe. 

Marina di Messina, ebruary 23, 1867.
Marina di Messina, ebruary 23, 1867. Photo by Sommer & Behles

Years later, he photographed custom images for book illustrations, as well as printing his own albums and postcards. Sommer worked in all the popular formats of his day: carte de visite, stereoview, and large albumen prints (approximately 8×10) which were sold individually and in bound albums. The partnership with Behles ended in 1874, after which each photographer continued on with their own business.

Cascata di Caserta, about 1855 - 1865.
Cascata di Caserta, about 1855 – 1865. Photo by Sommer & Behles

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