The Project's outline
Vincenzo Neri (1880–1961) was an Italian neurologist, who lived and worked between Bologna and Paris. His research focused on peripheral and neuromuscular disorders and degenerative neurological diseases.
Neri applied cinematography to his clinical researches for 50 years, since 1908. He combined Babinski’s semeiotics with Etienne-Jules Marey’s (1830–1904) practices, using graphs, schemes, photos, and films for analytical purposes. The complex articulation of all of these different practices led to the construction of an extremely heterogeneous archive, consisting of documents that belong to three different basic categories: cinematographic material, photographic material, and typographic clichés.
The collection, founded in Bologna in 2008, preserves 1.572 items, 1.353 of which are photographic (plates, including stereoscopic samples, x-rays, prints), 113 typographic clichés, 106 cinematographic pieces (mainly shot in 35 mm and 16 mm between 1906 and 1956), diagrams, paper prints (indirect evidence), a synoptic panel obtained from a 35 mm film and marked “ELGE” (Léon Gaumont), and lost sequences filmed in 17.5 mm.
Following a precise research protocol, the neurologist filmed (or photographed) the patient and then checked his negatives for the instant when the disease revealed itself through a specific sign. The chosen frame was identified with a marker and then printed on paper support and retouched/refined using pencil, ink, and even colored markings, both to improve the legibility of the sign by outlining the shape of the patient and to remove the background by completely darkening it.
In Neri's production, film and photography become a medium able to enhance the possibilities of the human senses and the clinical diagnosis, allowing inexperienced analytical opportunities through close-ups, blow-ups, and time-and-movement decomposition.
The significance of Neri's archive today is both in its scientific and historical value, and in its unexpected aesthetical qualities.