In the footsteps of local photographers
The beginnings of photography in Poland date back to 1839 when the news of the daguerreotype reached the country. Photography quickly got popular, and near the end of the 19th century professional photography salons grew in numbers fast. In some towns there were even several of them. It is worthwhile to pay attention to the fact, that the photographer's profession was usually taken up by Jews. The activity of itinerant photographers was an extraordinary social phenomenon of the break of the 19th and 20th century in Poland. They travelled the province and offered their services as photographers. No documents on the topic remain, which is why their photos are the only evidence of their activity. Currently the memory of these photographers is being brought back, but many of them remain unknown or forgotten. Because of the aura of mystery and uniqueness surrounding the black-and-white prewar photographs, it is worth it to learn something about them. We kindly invite you for a journey in the footsteps of local photographers.
The black-and-white photographs are sometimes the only remnant of the lost gone world of Jewish shtetls. To us this resource is all the more valuable as there aren't many photos preserved and most were damaged and destroyed during World War II. The route in the footsteps of local photographers goes through 22 towns, where we will get to learn about 28 photographers. The towns along the route are places where the photographers were born in, or ones where they took as their home in their adult and professional years. Currently they are spread across the borderlands of Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus.
The route goes through: Szczebrzeszyn, Wielkie Oczy, Cieszanów, Siedlce, Orla, Kleszczele, Ciechanowiec, Szczuczyn, Międzyrzec Podlaski, Kazimierz Dolny, Lubaczów, Ostroh, Kamianets-Podilskyi, Kremenets, Volodymyr-Volynsky, Zhovkva, Lenin, Navahrudak, Stolin, Slonim, Dzyatlava, and Pinsk.
The majority of photographers presented are people effectively unknown, or known just to a few of local historians and hobbyists. Few photos of theirs are preserved. We often have little to no information of their private life. Sometimes it's just one photo signed with the author's name or a stamp of his workshop.
The photographers we will meet on the route are: Faye Schulman, Chaim Lejzor Sztrajcher, Mowsze Szymenowicz, J. Winnik, Adolf Gancwol - Ganiewski, D. Duksin, Fajwel Lejbow Rogozik, Baruch (Bernard) Henner, E. Katz, Zalman Kaplan, D. Wajnszelbilt, Lejbowicz, Michał Greim, S. Hochman, Adam Tabiński, Józef Szymańczyk, Jerzy Kostko, Krantz, Chaim Kronharc, G. Obersztern, Izak Feldman, Fuchs, Z. Weiner, Ludwik Gronowski, Stanisław Sheybal, Dominik Zoner, Fortunata Obrąpalska and Ada Janczewska.
The route is meant to bring back the memory of those forgotten photographers, who were well known in their local communities before the War, and their photo salons and services enjoyed a good reputation.
Faye Schulman was born in 1919 in Lenin, a town with a population of ten thousand, and where half of the residents were Jews. At the age of 10 she learned photography from her older brother Mosze. During the occupation she had the only photography salon in town. Schulman was ordered to make ID photos and record films for the Nazis. In 1942 Nazis killed in Lenin 1850 people, including her parents and younger siblings. Because of her skill she managed to survive. Later on she ran away, becoming part of the Soviet guerilla brigade active in the forests near the former Polish–Soviet border. Her photos document the struggle and everyday life of the guerilla fighters. She took over a hundred photos which she developed under a blanket, and during operations she buried the camera in the forest. After the war she emigrated to Canada, where she lives today.
Little information on the photographer Chaim Sztrajcher remains. It is only known that in the interwar period he had a photography salon "Venus" in Szczebrzeszyn, at the Rynek 32 street. In June 1939 Sztrajcher took, as one of his last ones, a photo of a group of children and teenagers from the public school in Czarnystok. On the photo's reverse there is the salon's sign.
Mowsze Szymenowicz came from Navahrudak. For 12 years he had been a printer, but seeing no further prospects in this branch he switched to photography. He founded Navahrudak's first photography atelier. It was located near the approach to the castle hill.
J. Winnik set up his photographer's shop in Navahrudak. Many signed postcards are preserved, with the sights of Navahrudak between 1917 and 1918. The shop certainly remained active in July 1939 –a photo made during the inauguration of holidays in town called Nowojelnia is preserved.
Baruch Henner was a renown Galician photographer of the break of the 19th and 20th century. He was born in Wielkie Oczy 15 August 1842 in house number 150. His parents were Samuel and Pesa of house Brand. The Henner family had lived in Wielkie Oczy since at the very least the middle 18th century. Henner learned the trade from Louis Lumière during his stay in France. He was a photographer and the owner of Przemyśl photograph shops. He was buried on a Jewish cemetery in Przemyśl.
Adolf Gancwol–Ganiewski was a photographer from Siedlce. He was born in an assimilated Jewish family. Since 1895 he had a photographer's shop in Siedlce. He photographed important events, local architecture in town and nearby area, as well the town's residents – Poles, Jews, Russians, and Germans. He specialised in group photos, of policeman, firefighters, soldiers, as well as students graduating from local schools. 01 April 1942 he was placed in Siedlce ghetto. He was allowed to leave it to run his photo shop. He died in Treblinka. His entire archive of over 900 negatives was preserved and is currently held in the Regional Museum in Siedlce.
D. Duksin was a photographer about whom little information remains. It is known only that in 1928 he had a photographer's shop in Bielsk Podlaski. He probably worked as an itinerant photographer, making photos for the purposes of resident of nearby towns and villages – family photos, portraits etc. Many signed photos from Orla from the 30s are preserved. The photos show men studying in Beth Midrash, officials from Bank Ludowy [People's Bank], children from Talmudic school, seamstresses at work, the construction of a school, horse market, and rabbi's ohel.
D. Duksin's photos can be seen at YIVO Archive in New York.
Fajwel Lejbow Rogozik was the first professional photographer in the Wysokie Mazowieckie county. Rogozik came to Ciechanów from Międzyrzec Podlaski. Initially he worked as an itinerant photographer, but in 1912 the set up a permanent photographic atelier. From Rogozik's shop come the oldest known vistas of the town. Most of them show now non–existent buildings and streets destroyed during World Wars I and II. Some of the photos are portraits or photographs made during special events.
Fajwel Rogozik's photos can be seen on Ciechanowiec's website.
In Międzyrzec Podlaski there were several photographer's shops. One of the oldest ones was the one of Krantz, known as Fotografia "KRANTZ" Międzyrzec. The shop was located on the Lubelska street. It was founded near 1906 and remained active until the first years of the interwar period.
In Międzyrzec Podlaski there were several photographer's shops. Three of those were on the Lubelska street. One was Chaim Kronharc's, called "Fotografia Ch. Kronharc". It had been active since 1914. Little is known about the photographer himself. From information discovered it can be concluded that Kronharc was a member of Żydowska Partia Ludowa [Jewish People's Party].
In Międzyrzec Podlaski there were several photographer's shops. Obersztern's shop was located at the Żwirki i Wigury 43 street.
In Międzyrzec Podlaski there were several photographer's shops. Three of those were on the Lubelska street. His shop "Foto Film Izak Feldman" was located at the Lubelska 43 street.
A Jew, Fuchs had his photographer's shop in Lubaczów, active in the late 20s, and the 30s. It was located at the Markijana Szaszkiewicza street (currently Wyszyńskiego). Because of the shop's liquidation by the Germans, the only known and official photo shop in the nearby area was the one of Adam Tabiński in Cieszanów.
A Jew, Weiner had his photographer's shop in Lubaczów, active in the late 20s, and the 30s. In the backyard, where now Gminna Spółdzielnia is located, there was a gazebo with many windows, which served as Weiner's atelier. Because of the shop's liquidation by the Germans, the only known and official photo shop in the nearby area was the one of Adam Tabiński in Cieszanów.
S. Hochman was a local photographer from Stolin. There are several preserved signed photos, but little is known about the man's life. Hochman's photos are similar in style to the photos of Józef Szymańczyk, who in the 30s photographed Polesie and its residents. Hochman used white subtitles in his photos, made with masks attached to the negative (for instance "Typy Poleskie", "Naprawa sieci") etc., which was supposed to make the form and idea's identification easier.
The photographer E. Katz had his photo shop set up in Pinsk at the Kościuszki street, which during the interwar period was the town's central street. The house number was 23 or 24. Pinsk residents were proud of their town, they enjoyed going on walks along the boulevard at the Pina river or the Kościuszki street. Elegant and well dressed, they often visited the photo shop. Many preserved photos show married couples, families, and friends. Katz also photographed the town's vistas and various ceremonies taking place in Pinsk, for instance the opening of a bridge over Pina in 1932.
Zalman Kaplan was a Jewish photographer from Szczuczyn. He had the famous "Fotografja Z. Kaplan, Szczuczyn–Białostocki" studio. It was located at the Kilińskiego 24 street. The studio won four medals for its creations. Kaplan is known as an outstanding portrait photographer and a master of using lighting. The majority of the photos he took in a natural light, as his studio had two glass walls and a glass roof. Kaplan had been active since 1890 until his death and took tens of thousands of photos in that time. He died in 1941.
A rich collection of Zalman Kaplan's photos can be seen at www.szczuczyn.com.
D. Wajnszelbilt was a photographer working in Ostroh. His photo shop was located at the Pierackiego 22 street. There remain many signed photos of children under the care of Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludności Żydowskiej [Society for Healthcare for Jewish People] in Ostroh.
D. Wajnszelbilt's photos can be seen at YIVO Archive in New York.
Lejbowicz was a Jewish photographer who worked in a town called Dzyatlava. There remain some photos from the 20s, signed by Lejbowicz. The photos show, among others, the members of balalaika orchestra, the Żydowska [Jewish] street in Dzyatlava, children running on the market square, and editors of the Hehaver newspaper. We know little of his life. We don't even know his name. We only know that he had a son, Lejzer.
Michał Greim was a Pole, who lived in Kamianets-Podilskyi. He set up his photo shop there. He was an amateur photographer, originally a craftsman and documentalist, in time also an outstanding artist. Portraits are the most typical of him. The portraits of ethnic types of Podole and Bessarabia, busying themselves with jobs no longer existing – executioner, coopers, fishmongers, or cheapjacks.
Adam Tabiński a photographer with loyalties split between Cieszanów and Lubaczów. He came to Cieszanów in the middle 1920s from Lviv, where he previously had had a photo salon with his brother Antoni. In his Cieszanów photo shop, which was located at the market square, he took photos of the residents of the town and nearby area. Local historians consider Tabiński a controversial figure, a tragic one, even. The photographer was a dwarf and did not shy away from alcohol.
Józef Szymańczyk was born in 1909 in Kosava. He had been interested in photography since he was 14. Initially he was self–taught, then he got master's diploma and opened his own photo shop, first in Kosava, then in Slonim. He kept his Slonim shop going during the war. In the 1930s he took a series of photos depicting Jews and the work of Polesie farmers.
Jerzy Kostko was a local photographer from Kleszczele. He had kept his photo shop from the 1920s to the 1970s, even during the occupation. The studio was located in the house he lived in, at the Kolejowa street. In majority of houses in Kleszczele there were photos from his atelier. The archive of Jerzy Kostko is a unique, sociological document, showing the town's residents on regular days and holidays, during wedding receptions and funerals. There was a custom in town, that on holidays after the Mass in the orthodox church people went to the photographer to have a photo taken, with them in the nice clothes and shoes. Kostko usually took them outdoor, in front of his house. He gave a branch or a flower to the people posing for the photo and ordered them to stand still. Typical of him are also photos with antique columns from his atelier as a background.
The photos of Jerzy Kostko we can show thanks to the kindness of the WIDOK Association for Cultural Education. More information and a rich archive of the photographer's work can be found at albom.pl.
Ludwik Gronowski was born in 1904 in Warsaw, but took Kremenets as home and workplace. Between 1930–1939 he was a member of Krzemienieckie Towarzystwo Fotograficzne [Kremenets Photography Society]. His works were shown in many galleries across the world (London, Paris, Munich, Antwerp). The majority of Gronowski's photos were lost during the war.
Stanisław Sheybal was born in 1891 in Sambor, and the most important time of his professional life he spent in Kremenets. During the interwar period Kremenets was an important centre of development of artistic photography and Sheybal was one of the creators and animators of the artistic activities in town. Artistic photography was his passion, he shot atmospheric landscapes, enjoyed taking photos of the sky and clouds, which was why he was called a poet–photographer. In his body of work there are also figural compositions and photomontages.
Stanisław Sheybal's photos we can show thanks to the kindness of Mrs. Jolanta Sheybal.
Dominik Zoner was born in Zhovkva. His brother Franciszek was his hometown's mayor. Zoner learned photography in Lviv and Vienna. He worked as an itinerant photographer taking photos of the residents of Galicia and Russia. in 1858 he settled in Łódź and opened the first in town photo shop.
Fortunata Obrąpalska was born in 1909 in Volodymyr-Volynsky. Considered an outstanding photographer, she took interest in this trade because of the influence and insistence of Jan Bułhak. Initially she used pictorialism as her style. In later years she took interest in modern photography. She also had some on the photography of nature. Her husband Zygmunt Obrąpalski was a known photographer and an activist in the Związek Polskich Artystów Fotografików [The Association of Polish Photographer–Artists].
Ada Janczewska was a documentalist photographer. No information about her life is known. Several of her photographs are preserved, showing Jews from Kazimierz Dolny in the 1920s. Her photos were shown in 2008 during an exhibition called "Documentarians – Polish female photographers of the 20th century" in Zachęta.
Grażyna Stojak, Śladami rodziny Hennerów. Z dziejów przemyskiej fotografii, Przemyśl, 2006
Sławomir Kordaczuk, Siedlecki fotograf. Adolf Ganiewski (Gancwol) 1870-1942, Siedlce, 2009
Andrzej Matynia, Adolf Gancwol - Ganiewski. Fotograf Podlasia, „Art & Business", 2007, 9
Andrzej Keczyński, Puszcza Białowieska w fotografii, „Biuletyn Konserwatorski Województwa Podlaskiego", 2007, 13
Księga adresowa Polski (wraz z w. m. Gdańskiem) dla handlu, przemysłu, rzemiosł i rolnictwa, Warszawa, 1928
Mateusz Borysiuk, Społeczność żydowska Międzyrzeca Podlaskiego w okresie międzywojennym, „Studia Żydowskie. Almanach", 2012, 2
M. Kowalski, Zakłady fotograficzne w Międzyrzecu Podlaskim, „Rocznik Międzyrzecki", 1975, VII
Adam Szajowski, Powiatowa fotografia, „Kresowiak Galicyjski", 2005, 8 (105), s. 7
Adam Szajowski, Dzieciak w koszulce, manekiny, i szuflada zegarków, „Kresowiak Galicyjski", 2005, 12 (109), s. 7
Adam Szajowski, Mały wielki człowiek. Rzecz o Adamie Tabińskim, „Kresowiak Galicyjski", 2005, 9 (106), s. 9
Adam Szajowski, Legenda zamknięta we wspomnieniach, „Kresowiak Galicyjski", 2005, 10 (107), s. 10
Adam Szajowski, O zdjęciach i wojnie, „Kresowiak Galicyjski", 2005, 11 (108), s. 5
Władysław Abramowicz, Drukarnie w Nowogródku, „Ziemia Lidzka. Miesięcznik Krajoznawczo-Regionalny", 1939, 6, s. 153-160