02.04.2021

Lublin on photographs from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries

Among the iconographic collections kept at the History of Lublin City Museum, photographs of the city from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries are quite numerous. These works are an invaluable source of knowledge, they are the most faithful image of the urban landscape of this era. Photographic views of cities and architectural structures began with the appearance of this technique in Poland in the mid-19th century. In stateless Poland, a need to document the monuments of its culture and everything that had been transformed and worth recording developed.
The first two Polish daguerreotypes made by Jędrzej Radwański, depicting the Visitandine Church and the Kazimierzowski Palace, were shown at the exhibition of daguerreotypes brought to Warsaw from Paris in 1839. Photography made it possible to record changes taking place in the appearance of the city. The pioneers of Polish photography, led by Karol Beyer and Konrad Brandl, created photographic series with several years of documentation of progress of works in Warsaw. The shooting technique had evolved. In the 1850s, daguerreotype was replaced by the collodion process. However, the photographs were still static and often devoid of municipal staffage. The long exposure made it difficult to photograph moving objects. Therefore, most of the city views in this technique were made in the early morning hours, when there was still no traffic on the street.

The 1880s brought a huge development of photographic technique in the world and in Poland. Thanks to the dissemination of dry plate, it was possible to manufacture plates and photographic paper at the factory. The photographer’s job became easier. There are also possibilities of taking pictures in motion by using a shutter in cameras. At the end of the 19th century, press photography began to develop.

The first photographers appeared in Lublin at the end of the 1840s. In 1856, two Berlin photographers: Ernst and Filitz advertised their services in the local press. In August 1857, K. Beyer opened a branch of his photography studio in Lublin. The plant operated for several months at Krakowskie Przedmieście Street and was run by K. Beyer’s associate, Józef Boretti. The collection of the National Museum in Warsaw includes a photograph of the Kraków Gate, which was probably taken in this facility.

In 1864, five photographers operated in Lublin, incl. Karol Grundhandt, who in mid-1865 received a license to run a photography shop. One of the precursors of Lublin city photography was Aleksander Nowaczyński, who ran a photography studio in 1866–1873. After the death of the owner, the shop was moved by his wife, Maria, to Warsaw. A. Nowaczyński, probably following the example of Warsaw photographers, published a Photographic Calendar for 1871 in his father’s, Józef Nowaczyński’s, studio. The carton with a calendar for 1871, apart from views of the city, contained portraits of members of Paweł Ratajewicz’s theater troupe. The same idea was used by Wanda Chicińska-Płaczkiewicz, who the next year published a photographic calendar with views of Lublin and portraits of actors, this time of Anastazy Trapszo’s theater group. Unique copies of these calendars can be found in the collection of the History of Lublin City Museum. In May 1875, the first album edition of Lublin’s views, photographed by W. Chicińska-Płaczkiewicz, was published, entitled Lubelskie Album. The publication was issued in five volumes, four photographs in each. Unfortunately, no copy has survived to our times.

Enormous contributions to the preservation of the landscape of Lublin from the end of the 19th century were made by the A. Stepanoff Artistic and Photographic Workshop. 18 of the 21 known to us are kept in the collection of the History of Lublin City Museum.