THE OLDEST PUBLIC PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION IN SLOVENIA
The Cabinet for Slovenian Photography at the Museum of Gorenjska
The Cabinet for Slovenian Photography was established on November 28, 1970. The Kranj Photography Club (FKK Janez Puhar) discussed the initiative at the festival meeting during the 60th anniversary of the first Slovenian amateur photography association in Kranj, which Marko Aljanchich expressed in his article The Power of Photography: Reflection on the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Establishment of the First Slovenian Club of Amateur Photographers (Gorenjski glas, supplement Snovanja, No. 5, 25. Nov, 1970), namely, that a permanent collection of selected work of Slovenian photography should be established in the birth-place of Janez Puhar. The decision regarding the establishment of the Cabinet of Slovenian Photography was greeted the same day by Slovenian photographers at deliberation, organised at the 13th republic photography exhibition in the hall of the Kranj Municipality Assembly. By then, Kranj had already organised several exemplary group photography exhibitions.
In March 1971, the Cabinet organised the first exhibition Ė Janez Marenchichís Retrospective (1914-2007) on the ground floor of Presherenís House in Kranj. Janez Marenchich was awarded with the Presheren prize in 1970; he dedicated 50 exhibited photographs to the Cabinet, which was the start of the formation of public photographic exhibition in Kranj.
The first session of the Cabinet, held on May 27, 1971, included: Cene Avgushtin, PhD, art historian and Director of the Museum of Gorenjska, along with photographers Marko Aljanchich, Stojan Kerbler, Tone Marchan, Janez Marenchich, Marjan Smerke and Alojzij Zhibert. The meeting determined the Cabinetís operations. Stojan Kerbler suggested that the Cabinet should start an archive by collecting all documentation on photography, old photo cameras and other objects, literature on Slovenian photography and catalogues and newspaper clippings. Janez Marenchich requested that the Cabinet take care of the works of the deceased and senior authors, the Cabinetís collection should be supplemented with photographs selected at exhibitions and later on, systematic collecting should take place (extracted from the minutes of the Cabinetís first session).
The Cabinet was established with the wish that all the best work in Slovenian photography would be concentrated in one place. The Cabinetís main tasks include: promoting interest in Slovenian photography, exploring its history, following photographic activities, preparing public presentations of photographic achievements for exhibitions and documenting and collecting photos, archive and documentary materials in the field of photography.
Cene Avgushtin, PhD, reasonably connected the Cabinetís activities with the Museum of Gorenjskaís operations. The Cabinet was included in gallery and museum activities and the photographic collection became an indispensable part of the art-history department. The Cabinet works within the scope of the museum (for some time the Cabinet was unofficially labelled as the museumís ďpermanent campaignĒ), which offers professional and organisational assistance to museum consultants and gallery managers Cene Avgushtin, PhD (since 1970) and Damir Globochnik, PhD (since 1991), as well as offering exhibition possibilities including space in depos as well as the space for a systematic photographic collection (the major part of the photographic and documentary collection of the Cabinet was kept at the office of custodian for art history).
The action group, which implemented the Cabinetís programme, included: Marko Aljanchich, Cene Avgushtin, PhD, art critic Aleksander Bassin, Mirko Kambich, MSc, and Slovenian photographic history researchers, Stojan Kerbler and Marjan Smerke; several others were also occasionally invited to cooperate. Biologist, professional writer, editor, mentor, translator, photographer and photographic publicist Marko Aljanchich (1933-2007) was the initiator of the Cabinet and was, for a long time, considered an indispensable member. Mirko Kambich, MSc, studied photographic material from early periods and Stojan Kerbler, a tireless collector of photography documentation, studied more recent periods as well as providing the majority of copies for the preparation of reviewing exhibitions.
The Cabinet organised various independent reviewing and retrospective exhibitions, where the following photographers were presented: Janez Marenchich (1971, 1983, 2000, 2004), Peter Kocjanchich (1971, 1972), Stojan Kerbler (1972, 2008), Marjan Pfeifer (1972), Tihomir Pinter (1973, 1978), Ivan Dvorshak (1974), Tone Marchan (1975), Tone Stojko (1976), Jozhe Mally (1977), Janko Skerlep (1977, 1993), Marjan Smerke (1977), Miroslav Zdovc (1980), Jozhe Kolosha Ė Kolosh (1980), Vlastja Simonchich (1992), Janez Koroshin (1995, 1998) and Jaka Chop (1998). Every invited artist became an honourable member of the Cabinet.
The Cabinet also organised exhibitions of photographic groups: Mariborski krog (1971), Foto grupa ShOLT of Ljubljana (1972), Photographic Section of the Designers Association of Slovenia, 1976), Young Photographers Generation in Slovenia, 1989 etc. Janez Puhar (1974), Janko Branc (1975), Slavko Smolej (1975), Fran Krashovec (1978) and Tone Marchan (1991) were presented at memorial and post-mortem exhibitions. The Biennial exhibition of landscape photography Landscape (since 1974), exhibitions Self-portrait in photography, 1977, Time, in which we live, 1986, Portraits and faces in modern Slovenian photography, 1987, and 1 + 16 (1996) were proposed for a greater popularisation of Cabinetís work among photographers. In 2004, an exhibition was organised at the 70th anniversary of Marko Aljanchich, Marjan Kukec and Jurij Kurillo and in 2007, the Cabinet organised the exhibition Students of Photography at FAMU, Prague; this same year, the Cabinet also organised the exhibition Five generations of Janez Puhar Photography Association from Kranj.
The Cabinet has presented many theme exhibitions and chronological reviews: The Development of Photography in Slovenia from 1840 to 1918, 1977, Slovenian photography during the world wars, 1982, Social themes in Slovenian photography during the world wars, 1980, Art features of photography during the National Liberation War, 1980, Slovenian alpine photography during the world wars, 1991, and reviewing exhibitions Developmental orientations of Slovenian photography 1945-1978, 1981, transfer to Cankarjev dom in Ljubljana, 1984, for which photographers dedicated most exhibited photographs. Because of these many exhibitions, the Cabinet has been described as one of the pioneering elements in the elementary valuation and exhibition presentation of the historical development of Slovenian photography. Fran Krashovecís exhibition along with the exhibition Social Themes in Slovenian Photography During the World Wars were presented at the Foto-savez Jugoslavije Photography Salon in Belgrade (1979 and 1981). The Cabinet also hosted its exhibitions in Ajdovshchina, Celje, Ptuj, Radovljica, Novi Sad and several times in Ljubljana.
Until 2004, the Museum of Gorenjska published leaflets and catalogues at all the Cabinetís exhibitions. In 2004, the Cabinet issued a photographic monograph of Janez Marenchich Ė Fotografije/Photography. In 2005, the Cabinetís second study book, which included 112 photographs, was issued at the exhibition Selection from the Collection of the Cabinet of Slovenian Photography.
During its first years, the Cabinet tried to establish photography as an art form and promoted the collection of photographs. The beginning of the collection was formed with gifts, purchases and reprints of original negatives or reproductions of published photographs. For a majority of the time, the Cabinet had to cope with the usual lack of funds. Its operations were possible only because of photographers, who called to attention the endangerment of photographic documentation. Quite a large portion of materials and photographs in the Cabinetís collection was saved from loss or destruction. The first independent exhibitions organised by the Cabinet promoted photographers of older generation.
The initiative for establishing the Cabinet was realised with the support of Slovenian photographers, who operated in various photography associations, organisations and clubs. The chronological thread of the photographic collection therefore stretches from amateur photographers who were organised in Fotoklub Ljubljana and, during the nineteen thirties, achieved great success at international photography events, to artists who established new techniques in photography expression during the post-war period (e. g. representatives of Mariborski krog and Foto grupa ShOLT). Among photographers of the younger generation, the share of those who obtain photography education at colleges abroad is increasing. Photographs that emerged in the second half of the 20th century prevail.
In the future, the Cabinet plans to digitalise photographic collections including Marko Aljanchichís retrospective, new study books on individual photographers (Janko Branc, Janko Skerlep), generational and organisational groups (Ljubljana Photo Club), etc.
The Cabinetís collection is also available for study purposes. Thanks to Cene Avgushtin, PhD, I was acquainted with the collection soon after obtaining office in the Museum of Gorenjska. At this time, the process of inventorying photographs began. The inventory book now includes 1093 photographs of exhibition format and reprints; however, this number does not include the legacy that Janko Skerlep dedicated to the Cabinet (458 photographs, 2580 negatives on glass surfaces, 7549 negatives and contact copies, 7391 slides). The two latest acquisitions include 94 photographs by Stojan Kerbler and Stane Klemenc from their opus of alpine and travelling photography. Both artists donated their photographs.
The Cabinet of Slovenian Photography owes its establishment to idealism. Photographers who wanted an organisation which would act as a parent institution for Slovenian photographers also provided the initiative for the establishment of the Cabinet. Meeting and having discussions with important representatives of Slovenian photography, getting acquainted with their dedication to photography and interpretation of reality, intelligence, self-sacrifice and personal modesty and also with their incentive responses to photography exhibitions in Kranj and elsewhere have always presented me with professional satisfaction.
Fran Krashovec, Autumn in Ljubljana, 1930
(transl. authorized by Damir Globochnik)