reveals a part of iconographic heritage of Kaunas city. Museums,
libraries and collectors of the city have significant collections of
urban, event and portrait photography. Library of Kaunas University
collected a fund of about 3 000 iconography units. It was inherited
by library of Kaunas University of Technology.
were selected for collection and systemized chronologically,
emphasizing the photographers' workshops that were more notable. The
main features of development of Kaunas commercial and fine-art
photography were revealed in the second half of the 19th and
beginning of the 20th century and the third and fourth decade of the
20th century. Collection reflects various aspects of interesting and
live image of the city's past, reviving authentic cultural and
social environment of its citizens.
Collection was prepared
based on archived and published sources.
photography in Kaunas in the second half of 19th beginning of 20th
century is a century of inventions and rapid technological progress.
People's attempts to record reality, to stop and preserve a moment were
successfully implemented by invention of blueprint or photography,
announced in Paris in 1839.
photographers used to visit Kaunas since 1854. Considerably early
appearance of photographers in Kaunas was determined by transit roads
and sufficient population, which could ensure minimum income of this
craft. First stationary photo studios were opened in Kaunas in 1862 and
1863 by Maksas Diemanas (Dumanas) and Icikas Klivanskis. After uprising
of 1863 tsar authorities inspected all institutions, which could
contribute to distribution of illegal production (publishers, foundries
of letters, lithography and photo studios). Activities of workshops of
photographers were strictly regulated. In the 7th decade of the 19th
century photographers, who wanted to open their photo studio, had to
provide a deposit (200500 silver roubles), three written guarantees by
people, who were loyal to the authorities, and obtain a governor's
Until the 9th decade of the19th century a few
photo studios became well-known in Kaunas studios of Aleksandras
Strausas, Vladislovas von der Leyus and Jaroslavas Bžozovskis.
Photographer and artist from Vilnius A. Strausas (18341896) came to
Kaunas in 1868. A. Strausas was a famous portraitist and a pioneer of
fine-art and theatre photography in Lithuania. In 1882 40 photographers
of 1500 craftsmen working in the empire at the time participated in
Russian exhibition of industry and art in Moscow. Portrait photography
outshadowed other genres. A. Strausas presented a few portraits at the
exhibition and was awarded a bronze medal.
A. Strausas Company had a few different
owners. Simonas Surevičius became its owner in 1873. In 1877 Piotras
Simonas Piotrovičius bought the workshop, which at the time was located
in Deueliai house at Nikolajaus prospect (now Laisvės al.), from S.
Surevičius. Both of them made contracts with A. Strausas, which allowed
them to use the title of "Strausas Company" for a substantial fee. Photo
studio of P. S. Piotrovičius thrived. During nine months of 1877 they
carried out 1400 orders. Visite carte photographs (103 x 63), glued to
standard size cardboard cards with flower design or other ornament and
information about photographer and his workshop, were most popular. A
dozen of such photographs cost 5 roubles, half a dozen 3 roubles. More
and more photographs were made in various formats (cabinet portrait (164
x 107) and victoria carte (122 x 83), etc.).
The most famous photographer in Kaunas of that
period was Vladislavas Zatorskis (18621926). He started his activities
in the city in 1882 at the photo studio of his father Emilijus
Zatorskis. In 18911894 V. Zatorskis was the owner of two photo studios.
To distinguish between them, photographs were marked by two notes
"across from city garden" (now city municipality) or "across from
girls' gymnasium" (now central post). V. Zatorskis was the first
person to receive permission to take photographs of Kaunas city
V. Zatorskis, who started taking photographs
of the city, its panoramas and neighbourhoods in the end of the 19th
century, became the first photo-chronicler of the old Kaunas. V.
Zatorskis was active in the photography field until 1913. In 1905 he was
awarded a Grand Golden Medal for his studio works at Brussels
All photo studios of
that time were established in the flats. Usually photographs were taken
in the day light (photographers started using artificial lighting only
in the 20th century), therefore small pavilions with big windows and
glass roof were often annexed to the flat. Photo studios were
distinguished by modest interior. Workshop had one or a few backgrounds
landscape painted on canvas on the entire wall. Besides the
background, various accessories were used: armchairs, tables, fences,
columns. Wooden floor was often covered by carpet. In special cases,
especially taking photographs of high rank officers, special decorations
were created. There is a famous photograph, made at Kasparis and
Bucheris photo studio around 1866; it is a photograph of Kaunas governor
Nikolajus Muravjovas on the painted horse.
The number of photo studios was increasing,
their technologies improved, production of produced portraits increased,
therefore their prices reduced and more and more citizens and guests of
Kaunas could have their photographs taken. The main customers of photo
studios were priests, doctors, students, wealthy citizens. At the end of
the 19th century beginning of the 20th century there were from six to
eight active photo studios in Kaunas. There was a rapid rotation of the
owners of photo studios, but most popular workshops remained at the same
places. In 1868 A. Strausas bought devices from the photographer Jonas
Branderburgas, who was leaving Kaunas, and established his photo studio
in the wooden pavilion in the yard of Ritenbergas house (now Laisvės
al. 57 / S. Daukanto 17). In 1912 photographer Adomas Kliučinskis moved
into the same house. He rented a five room flat on the second floor and
established a photography pavilion with glass roof in the penthouse. It
was an active photo studio until 1940. Another photo studio, active for
almost six decades workshop of A. Ciolkevičius, opened in 1883 at
Vitkind-Rabinovič house (now Laisvės al. 82 / Maironio 17). Photo
studio, which had many owners, remained there until 1940.
When researchers of photography history assess
photographers of Kaunas of that period and their activities, they
emphasize that majority of photography masters were simple craftsmen,
who earned their living by this occupation, but they did not achieve the
excellence of mastership. However, they were pioneers of this area in
the city and their works are of high iconographic value. Particularly,
because we have no accurate data on preserved works of the photographers
of the discussed period, which are scattered in various collections.
Publications of historians and art critics cannot replace multi-aspect
visual acquaintance with old portrait photography. Organizers of this
exhibition hope that this meeting helps to reveal more significant
features of development of Kaunas photography and get a better
understanding of colours of life during that period.
The third and fourth decades
of the 20th century
After the First World War a few
photographs worked in Kaunas: Adomas Kliučinskis, Boleslovas
Savsenavičius and Simonas Bajeras. Each year the number of photographs
in Kaunas increased, photo studios appeared not only in the downtown,
but also in other parts of the city, in Šančiai, Vilijampolė,
Žaliakalnis districts. Information sheet Visa Lietuva specifies that
there were 16 active photo studios in Kaunas in 1922. One year later
publication indicated 28 photographers: S. Bajeras, V. Domeika, I.
Besarabija, A. Kliučinskis, L. Judsonas, J. Matušaitis, K. Mingaila, V.
Murnykas, B. and M. Rubinai, P. Rutkauskas, B. Savsenavičius, P. Šeras,
S., Ch. and H. Vinokurai and others. Quite a few photographers, who
could not survive a severe competition, stopped their activities in a
few years. The most productive studios: Ekonominės karių bendrovės
fotostudija (1922-1940, Laisvės al. 48), photo studios Modern,
Renaissance, Progress, Zinaida. Portraits were created by acknowledged
master of photojournalism Mejeris Smečechauskas, S. Bajeras, A.
Naruševičius and others. At the end of the 4th decade of the 20th
century there were about 50 workshops in Kaunas and amateur
photographers were competing with them. Photographers, who wanted a
memorable advertisement, named their workshops by grand titles.
One of the most famous photo studios in Kaunas during the 3rd decade of
the 20th century was owned by J. Tallat-Kelpšienė, who worked as State
Theatre Photographer. In 1928 photographer's workshop won a competition
to make a portrait of the President of the Republic of Lithuania,
Antanas Smetona. Another famous Kaunas photographer was Zina
Bliumentalienė. At the beginning of 1933 she participated in Berlin
International Photography Competition. Five works of Z. Bliumentalienė
received awards at that competition. Encouraged by international
recognition, photographer opened an exhibition of her works at Kaunas
Art Gallery on 26 February 1933, where she exhibited 130 photo portraits
of famous people. Exhibition, which was visited by many people, was open
until 17 March. Exhibition's visitors noticed significant differences
from the previously presented exhibition of the works by Petras
"Zinaida is more distinguished for a photo-artistic
technique, regulating composition and light-shadows of the paintings
with the help of footlights according to her taste. Majority of the
persons, portrayed by her, appear in natural poses, which are specially
prepared for the object lens", wrote Naujoji Romuva. Photo portraits
of Juozas Herbačiauskas, Mečislovas Bulaka, Neemija Arbitblatas, Juozas
Vaičkus, Ignas Šlapelis, Vincas Čepinskis, Konstantinas Glinskis,
Veronika Podėnaitė and other persons are considered most interesting and
most successful works by Zinaida.
Karlas Baulas (1893 1964) was
the most creative photographer at Kaunas photo studios during inter-war
period. He was born and grew up in Venspils. K. Baulas collected his
theoretical and practical knowledge of photography in Moscow from the
photographer Čižovas. K. Baulas moved to Kaunas around 1926 and
established a workshop in Šančiai district. Later he moved to Laisvės
avenue, worked at photo studio of "Ekonominė karių bendrovė" and his own
photo studio. K. Baulas quickly became famous. He never advertised in
any publication, but he never lacked clients. A stylish photographer was
as important to the intelligentsia of that period as a tailor or a
K. Baulas perfected a genre of chamber photo portrait.
He rejected the brightness, which had become a cliché and enriched a
range of light and shadows. K. Baulas did not think that photographic
means of expression were enough; he used to create a certain synthesis
of two kinds of art fine art and photography. Portraits of famous
people by K. Baulas are distinguished by harmony of lighting, background
and model characteristics. Often, if the model's physical features were
suitable, photographer exhibited a profile.
During the inter-war
period photography in Kaunas was mostly developed by amateur
photographers, the centre of fine-art photography moved to Kaunas from
Vilnius. The following famous masters worked there: Petras Babickas,
Balys Buračas, Vytautas Augustinas, Kazys Laucius, Steponas Kolupaila,
Ignas Končius, Povilas Karpavičius and others. Development of
photography in Kaunas was greatly influenced by the activities of
organizations Photography Section at Society of Craftsmen and Culture
Techniques (1918) and Lithuanian Society of Amateur Photographers
(1933). The first textbooks of photography appeared during that period:
Fotografijos mėgėjas (Photographer Amateur) by Juozas Kaminskas (1925),
Fotografuoti gali kiekvienas Everyone can be a Photographer) by K.
Lausius (1933, 1938), Fotografijos vadovėlis (Photography Manual) by E.
Fogelis (1938). During the discussed period exhibition photography in
Kaunas matured and reached a global level. Photography exhibitions
became integral part of cultural life. Amateur photographers surpassed
professionals and were more active in these processes. It should be
noted that professional photographers developed quite a few apprentices,
teaching them most important principles of work and creative activities.
They also left a large archive of photo portraits, which still remains
inexhaustible source of iconography.
The exhibition was prepared
by Dr Nijolė Lietuvninkaitė.
KTU biblioteka, 2003-2013