João Francisco Camacho, photographic creation and reproduction of the landscape of Madeira Island

Main Researcher

Célia Ferreira


03.07.22 — present

João Francisco Camacho, photographic creation and reproduction of the landscape of Madeira Island is a research project that, based on archival and bibliographic research, aims to:

i) contribute to the inventory of the landscape photographic body of work -positives, negatives and albums- that J. F. Camacho (Mr Camacho) made of the Madeira island, during the period he worked in his studio of Funchal, from 1863 until 1878;

ii) relate that body of work with the conventions disseminated by travel literature and English tourist guides on Madeira published at that time, as well as relate with the picturesque taste dominant in landscape photography in the second half of the 19th century;

iii) to study the landscape work developed by Mr. Camacho, namely to analyse how the photographer achieved a way of seeing, probably unique, of constructing photographic landscapes that led him to integrate a geographical focus within an aesthetic visual experience.

“Coast View, from Heights above the Fossil Bed”. Engraving from sketch taken on the spot by John Botcherby.
Source: White, Robert (1851) Madeira, Its Climate and Scenery: Containing Medical and General Information for Invalids and Visitors; a Tour of the Island, etc.; and an appendix. London: Cradock & Co. Paternoster Row : and F. Wilkinson & Co. Madeira. Pag. 147.
J. F. Camacho (circa 1863-77) “North coast of Madeira from a fossil bed”.
Dimens.: 16,0 x 22,2 cm. Albumen print.
“Madère. – Vue prise sur la còte nord. Dessin de Taylor, d’aprés une photographie de M. Camacho”.
Source: Reclus, Élisée (1887) Nouvelle Géographie Universelle: la terre et les hommes. [Vol. 12 Afrique Occidentale Archipels Atlantiques; Sénégambie et Soudan Occidental]. Paris: Librairie Hachette et Cie; pag. 63. Dimens.: 13x19cm.

The photographic merit of J. F. Camacho has been commonly recognized, both at his time, especially between the 70s and 90s, as today. However, the knowledge on the landscape body of work he developed in Madeira, at least until 1878, is obscure today, due to several vicissitudes. What remains of his photographic production is scattered among various institutions in Portugal and abroad. Moreover, presumably at least one of his studios –during a decade he owned a studio in Lisbon, in which he worked full time, and another studio in Funchal- sold Mr. Camacho’s landscape photographs of Madeira without safeguarding his authorship properly. If, on one hand the photographer’s professional prestige was assured in his time, by the recognition within the circles of his relations, especially in photography and geography, on the other hand, the author’s work as a whole is enigmatic today.


This work is financed by national funds through FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia, I.P., in the scope of the Programmatic Funding allocated to the Research Laboratory in Design and Arts (LIDA) with the reference “UIDP/05468/2020″.