Fotograf Magazine

Tales of Ancient Photographers

Who today has even heard of names like Vojtěch Kramer, Josef Pírka, František Krátký, Rudolf Bruner-Dvořák, Jan F. Langhans, Ignác J. Schächtl, Josef Seidel, Jan Kříženecký, or Karel Dvořák? The raconteurs of history naturally reach for examples that are closer at hand. This fact alone lends all the more importance to any efforts to unearth the regional past, and to initiatives aimed at publishing works focusing on the 19th century.

The encyclopaedia Eminent Figures of Photography in the Czech Lands Before 1918 (Osobnosti fotografie v českých zemích do roku 1918) comes furnished with a summary foreword by its author, the historian of photography Pavel Scheufler, thus simultaneously offering a contribution to the theory of modern media. His selection of 143 notable photographers active in the lands of the Kingdom of Bohemia is illustrated by 625 colour reproductions. At times, the colours are even brighter than the original, for example with the painter Alfons Mucha. The Alfons Mucha entry also includes a photograph titled Moscow, 1913, citing as a source the Alfons Mucha monograph brought out by TORST (2000). However, this monograph (with reference to older bibliography) in fact cites Mucha’s Russian series as an example of the artist’s staging process, where instead of making sketches for his canvas of The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia, Mucha had some scenes photographed by a professional in Red Square. According to Scheufler, “all in all, the photographs of Russian street scenes can be regarded, among other things, as an intriguing social documentary, going well beyond the framework of mere source material”. The same conclusion can be found in Scheufler’s twenty-first publication, the Gallery of Photographers by Appointment to his Royal and Imperial Majesty (Galerie c. k. fotografů, 2001). This suggests insufficient revisions of previously written entries, though these form only half of the present edition.

The Galerie c. k. fotografů was somewhat problematically structured by Scheufler into nine chapters along the lines of Photography in the Service of Science, Public Education and Discoveries, Photography as a Hobby, The Photographer at Large, Photography as an Art – the Pictorialists, etc. Many photographers naturally spanned more than one genre. Mucha, for example, explored all of the above-cited tendencies. Although women did not figure exclusively as muses in the Galerie c. k. fotografů, none was allotted a separate cameo. The present and updated approach is conceived strictly alphabetically, and includes the following eleven women photographers: Bohumila Bloudilová, Anna Fiedlerová, Jana Jeništová, Žofie Chotková, Julie and Noemi Jireček, Jenovéfa Kolínská, Vefa Lindauerová, Karolina Quastová, Karolina Tietzová-Gallatová, and Therese Zuckerkandl.

Josef Moucha