FIRST SLOVENIAN PHOTOCLUB –
THE CLUB OF AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHERS IN LJUBLJANA
Daguerreotype was the first photographic process to be established in practice. Making daguerreotypes (direct positives on silver-plated copper sheets) was a demanding task. Only the most well off were able to afford them. First daguerreotypes in Slovenian lands were recorded by travelling photographers stopping over in towns to offer their services.
Janez Puhar, judged according to available sources to be the first native photographer, started out making daguerreotypes. In April 1842 he discovered a cheaper and easier method of taking pictures by means of glass sheets covered with sulphuric vapours using iodine, bromine, mercury and alcohol. He managed to do so five years before the French inventor Abel Niépce de Saint-Victor came up with a similar method, using glass sheets, egg whites, potassium iodide, and silver nitrate (so called niepcotype). Yet, Puhar’s method (Puharotype) never came into practical use.
In the 1850s and 1860s daguerreotype and other less popular photographic processes were entirely replaced by the photographic method using wet collodion plates. This method was invented in 1851, by Englishman Frederick Scott Archer. This method was demanding as well, particularly because the glass plate covered in collodion (solution of cellulose nitrate in alcohol and ether) needed to be exposed while wet and then the developing had to be done immediately after the exposure inside the bellows of the view camera. The glass plate captured the negative, which the photographer then transferred to paper in sunlight. This photographic method was more suitable for studio photography, as a landscape photographer would be saddled with a n impractically large amount of gear to carry around. In consequence, photography was predominately in the domain of professional studio photographers.
As a consequence of the photographic process with gelatin dry plates, which came into general use in 1879/1880 (discovered 1871 by an English physician Richard Leach Maddox), and thanks to handier cameras, photography became accessible to a wider circle of photography enthusiasts, initially the richer social classes. The new photographic process quickly caught on. Ivan Shubic (1856–1924)1 wrote in the first Slovenian photographers’ manual: »We will not be discussing Collodium wet plates, although certain professions may, now and again, persist in making use of them. What we deem sufficiently noteworthy are dry plates with potassium silver gelatin, such plates as are presently being employed by professional and amateurish photographers alike, and the latter without exception.«2
In mid 1880s amateur photography began taking root in our lands as well. The first local photographic club was founded in Ljubljana, in 1889 (at the 50th anniversary of the invention of daguerreotype).
A temporary committee of the club of amateur photographer was formed in November 1888. The committee called upon all photographers as well as all those who would wish to dabble in photography, inviting them to join and so accelerate the creation of the club. Applications were accepted at the administrative office of the specialist woodworking Imperial-Royal school.3
Soon after the committee publicized the invitation for applications in newspapers: »Since photography is not only a supremely interesting and beautiful pastime, but also hold general benefits, certain amateurs in Ljubljana elected to assemble a particular club for amateurs, one which will take upon itself the charge of promulgating and furthering amateur photography. Club members will benefit from all the necessary explication provided by experienced and practiced members, be it concerning wielding the apparatus or completing photographs. Whosoever wishes to join our club of amateur photographers, should shortly contact by letter or in person Mr Ivan Shubic, head of the trade school in Ljubljana. We furthermore declare that the club is also readily accepting ladies. The committee will attempt in all matters to accommodate the land officials in writing.«4
On April 3 1889 the founding assembly of the club took place in the facilities of the trade school for wood industry. The regulations, which needed to be presented to the government for confirmation, were accepted unanimously. The headmaster of the trade school Ivan Shubic, who was the main instigator of the club’s foundation, became its chairman. Gustav Pirc (1859–1923),5 who was secretary of the Farmer’s Society and editor of Novice, became secretary; professor Luka Pintar (1875–1915)6 treasurer, while madame Marija Hlavka and chaplain Anton Tramte (1846–1891) of Dobrepolje were named committee members. At the time, the club counted only twenty members. Yearly membership fee for members from Ljubljana was six guldens while others paid three guldens.7
The first general assembly of the new club took place on 8 July 1889. Prior to the general assembly, Ivan Shubic had sent an application to the Imperial-Royal land government, proclaiming that it did not object to the foundation of the club and ratifying its regulations (decree of 5 June 1889). The general assembly agenda was as follows: electing the permanent committee, advice of the temporary committee, suggestions on the part of the members.8 Professional photographers were not allowed to join the club.
All the members of the temporary committee were re-elected. They decided to establish a photographic laboratory (darkroom), purchase a new, modern photographic camera to be available for the members to use »for practice and fun«, and to begin organising lectures in combination with practical demonstrations, for example on proper manufacture of photographs. The society’s rules, which had been accepted by all members, were in print.9
The club was modelled after similar clubs in Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Rome.10 It was among the first of its kind in Austria, quickly following the clubs in Vienna (where the Club der Amateur-Photographen, the first such club outside England was founded on 31 march 1887),11 in Prague and Budapest. Wiener Camera Club (Vienna Camera Club) was founded in 1887. Wiener Camera Club (Vienna Camera Club) was founded in 1887. Klub fotografù amateur u Praze in Prague became operational in 1889. The Club der Amateurfotografen in Graz was founded in the same year as the club in Ljubljana.
The club operated from the specialist woodworking or trade school (Royal-Imperial school for wood industry). The members of the club received theoretic and practical advice about photography. Ivan Shubic, who in 1884 wrote about the introduction of dry plates (»Najnovejsha iznajdba v fotografiji« - (»The Newest Invention in Photography«), Ljubljanski list, 1884, nos. 149 in 150), five years later published the afore mentioned first Slovenian photography manual (Fotografija, Letopis Matice slovenske za leto 1889, pp. 220–262).
The first practical exercise for members and friends organised by the club took place on 28 October 1889. It featured presentations of the main phases of the process of photography (exposition, developing the negative and printing photographs on paper) and photographing in artificial light (»magnesium flashing light«).12 On 3 and 5 October the club held theoretical classes on photography.13 On 7 January 1890 there was a reprise of the »magnesium flashing light« presentation.14 Practical presentations ran parallell with regular monthly sessions.
Starting with March 1891, amateur photographers began meeting at the new »club locale«, Dr. Karl Bleiweis’s house.15 In 1891 regular monthly club sessions (every first Monday of the month) were also held in the reading room of the Provincial Museum of Carniola. The executive committee of the Landtag (the Landesausschuss) made an appropriate basement space available for the club to use as a photographic laboratory.16
At a session in November 1890, the club adopted the resolution to rent their own spaces that would be permanently accessible to every member.17 At the general assembly on 12 January 1891, Ivan Shubic was elected president, Gustav Pirc deputy, Lavoslav Fürsager treasurer, and Luka Pinter and Anton Tramte were elected committee members.18
Srechko Magolichsr. (1860–1943), who opened the photo studio Apolon in Celje in 1895, was also a member of the club.
At the end of 1891, the club joined the association of Austrian and German amateur photography societies. Slovenski narod reports that the association sought to establish a connection between the clubs through sending and exchanging photographs. It was also intended to disseminate information about the successes of individual clubs. The association was headed by the photography club in Frankfurt am Main. Amateurs from Ljubljana received the first two collections of photographs from amateur photographers of Frankfurt and Hamburg and displayed them at the society’s evening on 3 January 1893 at the specialist wood industry school. At the same time the regular general assembly was taking place.19
At Vodnikova béseda (Vodnik’s word), on Sunday the 27 March 1892 at the Reading Society in Shishka the following lectures took place: the curator of the Provincial Museum Alfos Müllner spoke about the Ljubljana Marshes and the secretary of the Imperial and Royal Farming Society, Gustav Pirc addressed the issues of farming and photography. Gustav Pirc, who had practiced photography for 13 years, was also a member of the well regarded Club der Amateur-Photographen Viennese photographic society. Aside from Pirc, the only other amateur photographer from the land of Carniola among the members of the Viennese club in the initial years of its operation was Baron Leopold Lichtenberg, the owner of Castle Habbach (Jablje) near Trzin.20
In June of 1893, the club prepared a smaller exhibition in the display window of the bookseller J. Giontini in Ljubljana: a board displaying photographs of the members.21
The club was operational until at least 1900, as it is mentioned among the societies of Ljubljana in the Ljubljana Adress Book for this year.22 In 1900, Ivan Shubic presented the section of photographers of the Slovenian Mountaineering Society with a full set of photography equipment (camera, tripod, head, two film cassettes, lens (13 x 18) with shutters). This camera set had been the property of Amateur Photographer’s Club in Ljubljana.23
Gustav Pirc, Obdarjevanje konjev v Sht. Jerneju na Dolenjskem, (Gifting Horses
in Sht. Jernej in the Dolenjska region) 13. 9. 1890 (Dom in svet, 1891, no. 1)
Gustav Pirc, Bled (Dom in svet, 1898, no. 17)
 The coordinator of trade schooling and natural scientist Ivan Shubic hailed from the Poljanska dolina valley’s Shubic family of fine artists. His father was Janez Shubic sr., a fine artist and painter, his cousins were painters Janez and Jurij Shubic. He studied natural science and mathematics in Vienna. In 1881, he was the interning professor at Mahr’s School of Commerce and later went on to teach at the Realschule and at the Grammar School. In 1888, he continued his studies in Vienna (trade museum). In the same year he became the teacher and head at the newly founded specialist school for woodworking and the specialist school for artful embroidery and sewing in Ljubljana. Between 1890 and 1907 he worked as municipal advisor in Ljubljana, and between 1898 and 1901 held the position of land representative for the towns of Kranj and Shkofja Loka.
5 Farming expert Gustav Pirc was born in Shkofja Loka (Mestni trg 116, today numbered 39). A year after he was born, his family moved to Kranj. After studying farming in Czech, he became an instructor and vineyard caretaker at the farming school by Slap pri Vipavi. After 1884, he worked as a travelling teacher of farming in Carniola. In 1880, he was elected secretary of the Carniolan Farming Society and in 1900 became its headmaster. He was the driving force behind the founding of the Apicultural Society, committee member at the Drama Society, president and treasurer of the Theatre Supporting Society. Between 1884 and 1917, he was the editor of the specialist Kmetovalec (Farmer) publication, between 1884 and 1893 the editor of Novice (News). He was also politically active.
6 Literary historian, linguist and librarian Luka Pintar was born in Hotavlje in Poljanska dolina valley. After studying in Graz he was employed at the grammar schools in Ljubljana and Novo mesto. After 1898, he was the scriptor at the Land’s Studying Library and from 1909 onwards its headmaster. He devoted himself to Slovenian linguistics and literary history (he studied the life and works of poet dr. France Presheren). He was a committee member of Slovenska matica (Slovene Society) and the editor of its miscellany. He was a committee member of the Museum Society from 1909 onwards.
11 There were 256 amateur photography clubs founded in England before 1900, only 23 photography clubs in the rest of Europe, and in the US there were 99. (from Helmut Gernsheim in collaboration with Alison Gernsheim, Fotografija: sazheta istorija, Beograd 1973, str. 165 (A Concise History of Photography, London 1965)).
20 From: »Club der Amateur-Photographen in Wien. Gegründet 1887. Mitglieder-Verzeichnis«, Photographische Rundschau, 1888, Vol.e 12, pp. 415–416, »Club der Amateur-Photographen in Wien«, Photographische Rundschau, 1890, Vol. 2, pp. 61–62.
Translated from Slovenian by Jaka Jarc