Anton Giulio Bragaglia, Ritratto fotodinamico di una donna (1924)


In 1930 Filippo Marinetti and the aeropainter Tato published the 'Manifesto della fotografia futurista', thereby laying the theoretical foundations of what was known as photodynamism. Avant-garde playwright Anton Giulio Bragaglia worked with his brother Arturo, and accomplished photographer, to pioneer the technique of photodynamism in the 1910s, during the early days of Futurism. The Ritratto fotodinamico di una donna is one of the key examples of photodynamism, since it portrays the moving head of a woman, thereby capturing its energy. Futurist photography exhibitions of the 1930s displayed avant-garde images that combined modernist influences with their typically Italian declinations, such as the layering of multiple negatives, perspectival foreshortening, and photomontage.

Main Principles

  1. A New Theorization of the Relationship Between Subjectivity and Objectivity

  2. The Rationalization of Aesthetics: the Straight Line


The techniques used in photodynamism can be traced back to the 19th century with Chronophotography, invented around 1868. It was possible to realised by using photo apparatus that allowed fast shutter speeds of 1000/sec in order to capture multiple exposures up to 12 frames per second. This technique allowed photographers to document movement by freezing the motion in short intervals. The fascination for technology continued and was intensified by WWI and was greatly influenced by Henri Bergson. By framing an image in movement, photodynamism allowed for a reconceptualization of the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity, which became a dynamic and not a stable entity. The self was to be represented as an evolving being, which could nonetheless by captured within the boundaries of an objective reality. The Bragaglia photos were constructed through overexposing so that the images of the subject were captured in a continuous flow. For example, the Ritratto fotodinamico di una donna shows how the woman's face is simultaneously distorted and made recognisable by the means of photography. The majority of Bragaglia's photos portray either an isolated human being or a gesture. Yet, the rhythm of the image is impressed by straight lines converging towards a main focal point at the bottom of the photo. Photodynamism therefore combines straight lines with an unfolding image, which seems to derail and multiply the points of view through which the viewer can see through reality. Reality itself is to be represented as a dynamic flow of linear and errant lines, which can only be returned to the viewer as a distorted experience of the world. Photodynamism therefore represents a challenge to conventional understanding of the real as something static and the dismissal of static art per se.


Bragaglia, Anton Giulio. 1970. Fotodinamismo futurista. Turin: Einaudi (with essays by Maurizio Calvesi, Maurizio Fagiolo, Filiberto Menna and introduced by Giulio Carlo Argan).

Enns, Anthony and Shelley Trower (eds). 2013. Vibratory Modernism. New York: Palgrave.

Hill, Sarah Patricia and Giuliana Minghelli (eds). 2014. Stillness in Motion: Italy, Photography, and the Meanings of Modernity. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Marra, Claudio. 2012. Fotografia e pittura nel Novecento (e oltre). Milan: Bruno Mondadori.