Fonds ESC - Emanuele Sciortino Collection

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Emanuele Sciortino Collection


  • ca. 1927-1940 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

4 boxes containing 894 glass plate negatives and 37 acetate negatives; 931 digital surrogates of images on glass plate negatives

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Emanuele Sciortino, born in 1882 and died in 1957, was raised at St. Dominic Street, Valletta. He lived there together with his father, Alfonso, his mother, Grazia nee Bezzina, and his siblings. As a young man, he started working at Mr Richard Ellis’ photo studio in Valletta as an assitant where he learned the craft of photo development. It is believed that one afternoon Mr. Ellis had left the shop to rest. Mr. Sciortino then proceeded to develop his first ever photographs. The photographs in question turned out so great that Mr Ellis praised his work. From then on, Mr Sciortino’s interest in photography grew.
In 1905 he married Maria Cutajar from Hamrun, where they settled in 125, St. Joseph High Road, Hamrun opposite St. Paul’s Square. There, Sciortino set up his first photo studio, thus becoming the first photographer in Hamrun. After some years he engaged Mr Cassar and Mr Blackman as his assistants who eventually, set up their own shops in St Joseph High Road, Hamrun as well.
After a while Emanuele and Maria moved to 195, St. Joseph High Road, Hamrun, where they lived with their fifteen children (of whom only nine survived) for the rest of their lives. Sciortino then set up a day studio at this address. It is interesting to note that Sciortino never used artificial light for his work. The studio’s roof was made entirely out of glass, allowing him to capture photos in ample natural light.
Being one of the few photographers working in Malta at the time, Emanuele Sciortino was quite busy. It is interesting to note that in World War II, Sciortino’s workload, like that of other photographers, increased substantially. Troops and sailors awaiting transportation to other countries would go to Sciortino to have their photos taken so that they could send these to their families, relatives and loved ones.
Sciortino also specialised in the memoriam cards. The portrait of the deceased was printed on the side of the memoriam card before being sent to the institute of St. Joseph in Santa Venera where the text was printed. The memoriam cards were then folded and ready to be distributed. Sciortino was also commissioned by several parishes to take photographs of the statues of patron saints, religious processions, and feasts in general. Sometimes, he was asked to take miniature photographs of statues of saints. These were then sold at a very low price so that people could attach them to their garments with a head pin during the evening procession. Among Sciortino’s famous photographs are photographs of the Maltese saint, St George Preca. At times he was also hired by the Political Parties of the time to take photographs of political meetings or events and at times, even of the politicians themselves. He used to also set up his camera at the Upper Barrakka Gardens where people would approach him to have their picture taken. It was common for photographers to set up their cameras there.
It is to be noted also that the famous sculptor Antonio Sciortino was the cousin of Emanuele Sciortino.
Emanuele Sciortino continued to work until his death on the 27th of December 1957. His children kept working in his studio on a part-time basis (since they all had other full-time jobs) until they closed the day studio altogether in the early 1970s.

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Scope and content

This photographic collection has photographs related to the building of churches in Malta, portraits of both influential and unknown individuals, religious processions and activities, political activities and civil works, among others.

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Finding aids

Both catalogue and digitized images are available at the Reading Rooms of the National Archives of Malta, Central Archive, Rabat, Malta

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Existence and location of originals

NAM Audio-visuals section

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NAM digital repository

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