History of photography in the Municipality of San Fernando (Second and last part))

View marketed by the House of Jacobo Peuser. The Estela Matilde Otamendi Asylum, in San Fernando.


Argentine photographic historian (b. 1943), researcher, restorer, collector and curator of photographic collections. Gratia Artis Award (2021) awarded by the National Academy of Fine Arts of Argentina.

He is the co-author of numerous books, essays, catalogs, and articles on Argentine historical photography. In 2021 he presented his first title of exclusive authorship: These papers are stronger than bricks (Editorial ArtexArte. Colección Pretéritos Imperfectos. Buenos Aires). For decades he has worked as a journalist specializing in old photography for the Clarín newspaper in Buenos Aires.

He is a 5th generation descendant of the German daguerreotypist and photographer Adolfo Alexander (1822-1881).

He curator of numerous exhibitions on daguerreotypes and old photographs nationwide. He has directed various Photographic Museums and Historical Photo Libraries. In 1985 he was a founding member of the Center for Research on Ancient Photography in Argentina "Dr. Julio F. Riobó".

Around 1992, together with Miguel Ángel Cuarterolo and Juan Gómez, he started the renowned Congresses on the History of Photography of national and international significance through 12 meetings.

He currently chairs the Ibero-American Society for the History of Photography (SIHF).

For 15 years, together with Juan Travnik, he organized exhibitions on national historical photography at the FotoGalería del Teatro San Martín, in the City of Buenos Aires.

From 2006 to 2018, he served as Historical-Photographic Advisor of the "Benito Panunzi" Photo Library of the "Mariano Moreno" National Library, in Buenos Aires.

He has edited various photographic collections such as "Photography in Argentine History", "Escenas de la Vida Cotidiana", "A Century of Argentine Photography" and other titles on this historical theme.

In September 2017, he participated as co-author and guest speaker in the exhibition "Photography in Argentina (1850-2010). Continuity and Contradiction" organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, California.

In 2021 he was appointed Corresponding Academician at the National Academy of History of the Argentine Republic.

By Abel Alexander *

History of photography in the Municipality of San Fernando (Argentina), forgotten pioneers of the camera. 19th and 20th centuries

(Second and last part)


It is considered that the rise of photographic postcards -in all its technical and aesthetic variants- extended in our country from the year 1900 until the First World War and, in those years, the company best prepared to participate in that excellent business was undoubtedly the prestigious Editorial Peuser of Buenos Aires.

Jacobo Peuser was born on November 28, 1843 in the town of Camberg -current federal state of Hesse (Germany)- in the bosom of a humble family that, harassed by poverty and lack of opportunities, emigrated to Argentina around the year 1855. In his new home and at only 12 years old, Jacobo had to help support the Peusers, who settled in Paraná -at that time the capital of the Argentine Confederation- but, some time later, the young man worked in the city of Rosario as an apprentice typographer at the José Alejandro Berheim Bookstore and Printing House, that was a noble profession that he would embrace for the rest of his life.

With the support of his former employer and in 1868 he opened his own business in Buenos Aires, which he called "Librería Nueva", which, thanks to his keen sense for business, eventually became the powerful Casa Jacobo Peuser Ltda. At the beginning of his business career, Peuser opted for technical innovations and the acquisition of modern printing machines to meet the demands and quality demands of the growing publishing world of an Argentina that was progressing visibly, thanks to the impulse of that enlightened Generation of '80. 

He was the pioneering introducer of modern printing equipment for Phototype and Linotype techniques and the high quality reproduction of all kinds of images, especially photographic ones. These advantages positioned him to enter the lucrative postcard business thanks to photomechanical printing techniques, including attractive color chromolithographs.

Although we are not dealing with a photographer, his production of photographic postcards was immense and he covered the entire Argentine territory through urban and rural views, popular types and customs, including a set of views of San Fernando. Casa Peuser used to acquire photographic works by well-known authors -including H.G. Olds himself- but, due to an internal firm policy, their postcards did not include the credit of these camera professionals.

All the photomechanical "postcards" edited by Peuser were numbered and referenced on the front of the cardboards and they used to be edited in different colors such as sepia, blue or green; on the back was inserted the legend: "Talleres Argentinos Peuser". This is how we verify it through some records that this company made about the Partido de San Fernando:

49-San Fernando. San Fernando Channel

A. 110 - San Fernando. Miter Square and Church

A. 111 - San Fernando. The Spa

A. 113 - San Fernando. San Fernando Channel

A. 114 - San Fernando. In the spa

A. 127 - San Fernando. In the spa

A. 142 - San Fernando. Estela Matilde de Otamendi Asylum

A. 149 - San Fernando. Channel

As we know, the irruption of postcards -especially those of photomechanical printing- from the year 1900 definitively ended with the edition of the old and expensive photographic albums of views. The rock-bottom price of these handy individual images that functioned as minimal, low-postage letters sent old bound albums to the memorabilia corner. Thanks to the new system of postcards, the multiplication, diffusion and circulation of photographic images no longer had limits among the Argentine population.

Don Jacobo Peuser did not get to know the incredible scope of his postal empire, since he died in Buenos Aires on November 8, 1901 at the age of 58. He was an exemplary businessman with a high sense of social responsibility.


We have very little data on this photographer who, apparently, would have documented San Fernando towards the early years of the 1910s. It is interesting to note that his images of this town in the north of Buenos Aires were used by at least two different postcard publishers. , both with workshops in the city of Buenos Aires.

The first was the prestigious publisher Roberto Rosauer (1875-1939) who included in his collection of Argentine "postcards", a valuable overview -performed by U. De Micheli himself- of the center of the town of San Fernando and the unusual registration of the panoramic type, having to appeal to the resource of editing three folding and consecutive postcards by the photomechanical printing process. It is evident that, towards the date (1903), U. De Michelli had a special and expensive panoramic camera for these extensive records, probably of North American origin.

Another postcard is also known with the photographic credit of this author, it indicates on the front of the cardboard: "Rep. Argentina - San Fernando - Prov. Bs. As. - Parochial Temple" and on the back: "Edición Imprenta "Roma" by A. Bazzi - Photography U. De Micheli". In this case, it is a vertical type record on the popular parish of Aránzuzu and the full color postcard was published by the technical process of chromolithography.


We must point out that the former photographers based in small towns close to large cities -such as Buenos Aires- had to suffer serious competition from their capital city colleagues who even offered their services through the local press itself. This was the case towards the end of the 19th century.

In the popular newspaper "La Razón" of the then small town of San Fernando, residents were able to read a striking classified advertisement published on October 15, 1899; In it, the photographer Agustín G. Reffo from Buenos Aires was promoted, offering different technical processes and state-of-the-art innovations in photographic art and, of course, accompanied with tempting offers for those from San Fernandino who chose to choose that prestigious Buenos Aires photographic studio. For its valuable information we reproduce it in full:

"Photo studio

by Agustin G. Reffo

859, Defense Street, 859

Buenos Aires.

Aristotypical Portraits Hilford (sic), a

15 pesos a dozen and as a gift

a platinum of 45 x 35 centimeters,

unalterable system of the house

with its corresponding frame. Re-

treatments in pencil, oil and pastel.

Views, reproductions. Specialty

in portraits to Bromide. portraits to


A cursory analysis of this commercial notice indicates that Reffo had a good technical and artistic preparation towards the time, since he offered his clients noble processes such as aristotypes and platinotypes and, of course, more common techniques such as silver bromide gelatin. But his offer of artistic works made in pencil, oil and even pastel is striking. It is no coincidence then that, as the only illustration in all the secondary supports of his works, it was precisely a painter's palette with its bunch of brushes. He also offered to view and even reproduce other photographs. He had a frame workshop and worked with sensitive papers and drugs from the English firm "Ilford".

Again on January 28, 1900, the restless Reffo publishes his commercial news for the residents of San Fernando through "La Razón": "Photographic Studio of Agustín G. Reffo - 859. Defense 859 - Ensanche del Local - Great Exhibition ". Here it is interesting to note that the ad by Reffo from the capital collides and coincides in its pages with another ad by local photographer G. Locatelli.

Agustín G. Reffo was born in Italy around the year 1872 and, like so many of his compatriots, emigrated to Argentina in search of the long-awaited dream of "fare l'America". The second National Census of the year 1895 records him in Section 15. Subdivision 29 at just 23 years old, single and living in the city of Buenos Aires, where he practiced the profession of "Photographer" along with other members of the photographer's family. Italian Saverio Stoppani, so we consider that he worked as his employee or disciple.

We must point out that Reffo developed a long career as a professional photographer in the city of Buenos Aires; on the back of his portraits -generally in the "portrait cabinet" format- included the legend; "House founded in the year 1865", although we assume that this date was referred to the previous owner of that traditional Buenos Aires local at Calle Defensa No. 861 in the San Telmo neighborhood. Years later he joined the Telephone Union under subscriber number 4805.

Like so many of his colleagues, the active Italian appealed to advertising in the journalistic media of the time such as newspapers and magazines and, in this sense, we have detected one of his many classified ads in the publication "Martín Fierro - Popular Illustrated Magazine of Criticism and Art" published in Buenos Aires. Year 1. January 2, 1905 and where in its number 43 it indicated to the readers: "Reffo Photography - Defense 861 - Buenos Aires".

Agustín G. Reffo is considered a truly prolific author; His photographic works are preserved in various public and private collections in the country. We appreciate the valuable information provided by the genealogist Rosario García de Ferraggi.


In the newspaper "La Razón" - founded in 1898 - from the town of San Fernando, we located an interesting photographic news item published in its edition of January 28, 1900. This note of a social nature and generated by the newsroom itself indicated a clear support for local photographer G. Locatelli. Surely this Italian professional collaborated with the graphic notes of this medium.

The note informed all the residents: "Photography - Yesterday Saturday morning, our renowned photographer Mr. Locatelli took a photographic view of the beautiful group of ladies who have formed the religious choirs of the Patron Saint's novena, N. S. de Aránzazu. We recommend this work to the amateurs."

That was a well-known commercial strategy implemented by the photographers, since the realization of collective portraits of members of the same group or entity later generated the possibility of multiple sales of those copies. To date, vintage photographs were made on silver gelatin paper.

The Nuestra Señora de Aránzazu parish - a Marian devotion of Basque origin - has completed more than 200 years since its founding in that Partido and stands as one of the oldest buildings in San Fernando. Due to its importance it has been declared a Provincial Historical Monument.

Thanks to the "National Guide of the Argentine Republic" published by Pablo Basch's printing house and corresponding to the year 1905, we learned that towards that date the photographer G. Locatelli was the only professional working in San Fernando. This verification confirms that Locatelli was active in that Buenos Aires community for at least five years: from 1900 to 1905.


Since the beginning of photography in the country and then increasingly, suppliers of photographic supplies broke into this new market; At first it was some daguerreotypists (later photographers) who imported these materials from Europe and the United States and distributed them among their colleagues in the country; We give as an example the French Emil Mangel Du Mesnil or the Anglo-Argentine Samuel Boote. But these few individual initiatives were soon surpassed by businesses specializing in the wholesale sale of photographic material, such as the Belgian Enrique Lepage, Gregorio Ortuño y Cía., Rossi & Lavarello, Eugenio Widmayer and other local firms.

Of course this activity was developed especially in the city of Buenos Aires; Today, and thanks to the researcher Rosario García de Ferraggi, we add to this short list of photographic providers the little-known figure of José Corti who, in his desire to increase business sales, used to insert his advertisements in a well-known newspaper in San Fernando.

Indeed, in the edition of January 1, 1905, the readers -especially professional or amateur photographers- of "La Razón", became aware of the notice that said Buenos Aires house offered through its pages and under the following classified advertisement:


Complete apparatus for photography,

For instant views, always ready

for use. The most modern models

  and more perfection.

They carry diaphragms, change and conta-

automatic shutters, shutters, plates,

plate counter. visuals etc

For your 6 and 1/2 x 9 centimeter plates,

complete price with bag (sic) and accessories

$15.- m/n.

For 12 plates 9 x 12 centimeters

complete price with bag (sic) and accessories


Carriage free.

Orders to

Jose Corti

San Martin 345 - Buenos Aires

Useful for photography."

We believe that the "All Photographers" offer, based on two modern equipment for taking "instantaneous" photographs, was aimed at the growing number of tourists from Buenos Aires who vacationed in the beautiful Paraná islands and wanted to keep a good family memory.

Once again, on October 29, 1905, José Corti -from his business in Buenos Aires- inserted another attractive advertisement in "La Razón" in San Fernando. Under the title: «All Illustrators by means of the "Excélsior" Pantograph» he promoted the traditional device for drawing and increasing or decreasing up to ten times all kinds of images. This improved equipment was offered with its instructions for use to engineers, painters, draughtsmen, embroiderers and of course to photographers. One was also for sale: "Color box to illuminate photographs at 15.- pesos" and even artistic postcards at 2.- pesos per dozen.

In his eagerness to expand his commercial activity, we verified that the Italian José Corti crossed the borders of the country and published an advertisement identical to the one in San Fernando under the title: "Todos Fotógrafos" in the newspaper "La Democracia" of the city of Montevideo (Uruguay ) on April 20, 1905.


An interesting ad published on August 19, 1908 in the newspaper "La Razón" of San Fernando, indicates to its readers and in a large box: "Photograph "Hispano Argentina" by M. and F. Galdeano Hnos. -

All kinds of enlargements, reproductions, views, groups, buildings, etc. are made. It goes to the home of the person who wants it. Prices without competition. Calle Constitución 572. San Fernando." Curiously, that same day but from 1839 - that is, 69 years before - the invention of the Daguerreotype, the founding process of photography, was due to be known in Paris.

That was a Spanish family dedicated to the photographic business and extensive activity in the San Fernando district. Two years later and in the "Arlas Guide" of 1910 -in full celebration for the Centennial of the May Revolution- Manuel B. Galdeano and his brother appear as the only professionals working in that municipality in the north of Buenos Aires.

However, in the famous "Kraft Yearbook - Great General Guide of the Argentine Republic" and from the same year of 1910, it indicates that the residents of the town of San Fernando had the cameras of two portrait studios for their photographic needs, the aforementioned firm "Galeano Hermanos" of M. and F. Galdeano and the important competitor José Saracco of well-known local performance.

18 years later, the same Kraft Yearbook -in its 1928 edition- indicates Don Manuel Galdeano as photographers working in this shopping mall with his Photographic Studio on Calle Constitución N° 825 -next to Banco de la Provincia de Buenos Aires- and, just four blocks away, its competitor José Saracco with premises at Constitución 439.

At that time, the Galdeanos worked mainly in the most profitable segment of the photographic business, that is, social portraiture, both in studio shots and working at home to cover family events such as social gatherings, birthdays, anniversaries or large weddings in white. In some of its beautiful cardboard folders for the safekeeping and protection of photographic portraits, the address Calle Constitución 1356. San Fernando appears stamped.

The "Kraft Yearbook - Great General Guide. Volume III" corresponding to the year 1942, now gives us an overview of this special commercial activity in the city of San Fernando; Well, on page 682 and under the heading: "Photographs and Photographers" it indicates:

Boianyú Hno. .................. Constitution 347

Galarzo, Felix ........................ Constitution 1018

Galdeano, Manuel .......................... Constitution 871

Saracco, José .................... Constitution 447

In short, the residents of San Fernando had four photographic studios around that date -in the middle of World War II- and all located on the important Calle Constitución. At that time, the San Fernando District had a total of 43,762 inhabitants, of which 28,000 were established in the main city, which explains the number of Studies.

We can still detect around 1947 the prolonged activity of Don Manuel Galdeano in front of his well-known premises at Calle Constitución N° 869, now modernized thanks to the telephone number 744-0493; This is how the well-known Peuser Guide of that same year reports it. In turn, the historian of the San Martín Party, Mr. Roberto Conde, let us know that "Foto Galdeano" had a branch in the nearby town of Martínez (San Isidro Party) located on Alvear street corner E. Costa.

It is interesting to note that around the 1940s we detected the work of the photographer Nicolás Galdeano who, due to his profession and last name, would probably be a relative of our Manuel Galdeano from San Fernando. At least since 1942, Nicolás already appears -along with 127 other camera professionals- with a photographic studio located at Avenida San Martín 2721 in the city of Buenos Aires.

At the same time and around 1942, Nicolás Galdeano himself ran the only photographic house in the town of Tigre at that time, with an Estudio sobre Av. Cazón 1507 and this is indicated in the well-known Kraft Yearbook for the year 1942 on page 747.


In the aforementioned newspaper "La Razón" and in its edition of September 9, 1906, a new social photographer came to the fore; It is about the professional V. M. de los Ríos, owner of "English Photography" who, through a striking advertisement, communicates the following news:

"ENGLISH PHOTOGRAPHY" - I participate to the public that I will soon open my photography "atelier", where the client will find a careful service and the maximum perfection in all the works that are entrusted to me. Specialty in bromides and porcelain, groups, augmentations, color portraits and crayon. At the moment orders are served and it goes home. Go to the Bookstore of La Razon to V. M de los Ríos".

This ad is somewhat similar to the promotional campaign of the great Portuguese photographer Christiano Junior (1832-1902) who, on his famous national artistic tour from 1880, announced his arrival in the different provincial capitals in advance through local newspapers. from northwestern Argentina.

The photographer V. M. de los Ríos -obviously an admirer of the English photographic school- applied a resource similar to that of C. Junior in the interior of the country 36 years later and offered his services to the San Fernandino public before the opening of the Estudio de he.

His analysis of his advertisement provides interesting elements on the state of photography at the beginning of the 20th century. For example, he worked with modern silver bromide gelatin papers, also with the unalterable photographic porcelain technique, a procedure carried out in a special oven at over 1,000 degrees, he offered his clients the possibility of large enlargements and, pictorially, he worked with illumination or hand coloring of his works and artistic portraits from improved oil crayon pencils.


In our recent book "These papers are stronger than bricks" - published in 2021 by the Arte x Arte Foundation and under the editorial direction of Francisco Medail - a new chapter entitled "Geographies" is highlighted, which is dedicated to the history of photography in various districts of the province of Buenos Aires, such as Balcarce, Benito Juárez, General Lavalle, Mar del Plata, Saladillo and San Antonio de Areco.

Continuing with this same line of research, today we make available to those interested the history of photography in the San Fernando district -as an unpublished research work up to now- making the caveat that it is only the first part and made up of a few Less than a dozen biographies, as we are already working on the second and last chapter. Obviously we believe that this work can and should be corrected and expanded in the future, surely with the valuable contribution of local historians.

It is interesting to note that the worldwide recovery of the origins or history of photography only began with the centenary of the daguerreotype in 1939; Towards that date, said rescue focused only on the background of Europe and the United States, as the central countries where this brilliant invention was developed with the greatest power. At that time, little was known about the rest of the planet, but, from then on, the research topic advanced in different nations on various continents and hatched around the date of the sesquicentennial, that is, in 1989.

In Argentina, the recovery of our photographic memory has the solitary figure of Dr. Julio Felipe Riobó (1883-1966) as its greatest promoter, although Riobó focused solely on the daguerreotype stage; His publications, exhibitions, and conferences spanned the decades from 1940 to 1950. Then came the pioneering works of Miguel Ángel Cuarterolo, Juan Gómez, Vicente Gesualdo, Sameer Makarius, Luis Priamo, Abel Alexander, and a long list of tenacious scholars.

But as has happened in other geographies, the investigations and books published by these precursors were based largely in the city of Buenos Aires, since little or nothing was known about the rest of the country. This panorama was changing thanks to the valuable Congresses on the History of Photography (1840-1940) held periodically from 1992 and, largely due to the fact that many of its 500 research papers -gathered through the twelve Congresses developed up to now-, incorporated numerous documentary contributions on the photographic panorama of the provinces of the interior.

Even with the realization of the 1st Congress of the History of Photography in the Argentine Northwest -held in the city of Salta on September 22 and 23, 2022- under the auspices of the Historical Museum of the North directed by Arch. Mario Lazarovich and the Ibero-American Society for the History of Photography, a new and irreversible stage has begun, since the latter plans to organize the necessary Regional Congresses in the future where local researchers will rescue and publish their own photographic sagas.

With the present work "History of Photography in the Municipality of San Fernando - Forgotten Pioneers of the Camera. XIX and XX Centuries" we want to contribute a grain of sand to this great construction -so necessary, by the way- on this noble profession developed inside the country. As an encouraging fact, we will say that the new discipline that involves us has received full recognition in recent years from the National Academies of Fine Arts and History of our country.


* Special for Hilario. Arts Letters Trades

San Miguel (Buenos Aires)

November 18, 2022


Abel Alexander, "History of Photography in San Fernando (1875-1950) - A necessary iconographic rescue". San Miguel, February 2009, Buenos Aires.

Abel Alexander, "Adventurers along the roads", in Cuaderno de la Biblioteca Nacional, No. 2, November and December 2016, Buenos Aires.

Abel Alexander -Luis Priamo, "A country in transition - Photographs of Buenos Aires, Cuyo and the Northwest. Christiano Junior (1867-1883), Ediciones Fundación Antorchas, 2002, Buenos Aires.

Abel Alexander -Luis Priamo, "H. G. Olds - Photographs (1900-1943)", Ediciones Fundación Antorchas, 1998, Buenos Aires.

Abel Alexander, "These weak papers are stronger than bricks - Stories about old photography", Imperfect Pretéritos Collection, Francisco Medail Publisher, Art x Art, Alfonso and Luz Castillo Foundation, 2021, Buenos Aires.

Pablo Basch, "National Guide of the Argentine Republic. Annual Publication. 13th Year", Address and Administration Bartolomé Miter 513, Buenos Aires, 1905.

Arnaldo J. Cunietti - Ferrando, "The photographers in the continental exhibition of 1882", Report of the 4th Congress of the History of Photography in Argentina, pp. 99 to 105, Buenos Aires, 1995.

Juan Gómez, "Photography in Argentina - Its History and Evolution in the XIX Century (1840.1899)", Abadía Editora, Temperley (Buenos Aires), 1986.

Juan Carlos Grassi, "A History of Argentine Progress - Illustrated Chronicles of the exhibitions and congresses. XIX-XX Centuries, Editorial Ferias & Congresos, Buenos Aires, 2011.

"Commercial and Industrial Indicator of the Capital and the Province of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe (Rosario), Córdoba and Tucumán”, Buenos Aires, Year 1883.

Alberto N. Manfredi, "El Comercio de San Fernando", in "Circle of History" Magazine, June 2006.

"Martín Fierro - Popular illustrated magazine of criticism and art", Year 1, January 2, 1905, Buenos Aires.


"Benito Panunzi" photo library. National Library; Juan Carlos Borra; Roberto Conde; Henri Degournay; Marcelo Duran; Rosario Garcia de Ferraggi; Congratulations Moon; Margarita Margini; Francisco Medalil; Francisco Ortiz; Julio Pantoja; Noelia Perales; Louis Priamo; Mario Segura and Roberto Vega Andersen.

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