THE »SLOVENSKA FOTOGRAFIJA« MISCELLANY
In 1935, Fotoklub Ljubljana (founded in 1931) published the miscellany Slovenska fotografija (i. e. Slovenian photography) containing 60 full-page photographs contributed by 33 photographers. In November 1934, the most visible amateur and professional photographers were invited to participate. They chose which photographs they would enter for publication in the miscellany. Yugoslavia Printing Press was in charge of clichés and print. One of the conditions for participation, was that each author cover the expenses of their own cliché (autotype carbon reproduction). The miscellany was also meant to include a list of all active artistic and professional photographers and photography organisations.1 Fotoklub Ljubljana covered printing costs. Karlo Kocjanchich wrote the introduction. Peter Kocjanchich and Lujo Michieli were visual editors. Peter Kocjanchich was in charge of designing the miscellany. It is bound in grey canvas. Reproductions are printed on high-quality paper. Its list of reproductions includes detailed technical information (camera, lens, filter, paper). Price in pre-order was 80 dinars (regular price – 120 dinars). Fotoklub Ljubljana also gathered orders for the first Slovenian photography miscellany using a special prospectus containing texts in four languages.2
All the texts were translated to Slovene, English, German, and French. Dr Janko Branc’s contribution to the miscellany examined the first Slovenian photographer and photography inventor Janez Puhar. Purportedly, it was this contribution that brought Puhar to the attention of foreign scientists.3 However, Branch’s article did not include reproductions of any Puhar’s photographs.
A reviewer in Slovenec emphasised that Fotoklub Ljubljana expected that the representative miscellany of Slovenian photography would be co-funded by selling adspace to the photography industry or its agencies, which did not occur. »International photography factories with agencies here that don’t feel the need to support Yugoslav photographic art must be told one day with due vehemence: if you grasp economical exploitation of Yugoslavia than heed its cultural needs, or else you have no place here!«4
It was primarily Zagreb-based representatives of factories of photography goods that refused to buy ad space thus supporting the miscellany.5 Nevertheless, the miscellany ran ads for the Viennese editorial office of the Gallery photography monthly, the Kanc cosmetics shop with subsidiaries in Ljubljana and Zagreb, the Müller & Wetzig enlarger dealer from Dresden, the Mimosa photography firm from Dresden, Bart i Drug from Novi Sad - suppliers of the 35 mm Exakta camera and Hauff film, Francke & Heidecke from Braunschweig suppliers of Rolleiflex or Rolleicord reflex cameras, Ernst Leitz GMbH suppliers of Leica cameras, the Otto Perutz factory from Munich who were at the time selling Perutz’s Perpantic-film or Rectepan-film (for landscape photography), Peromnia-film (for portrait photography and interiors) and Perseon-film (for sports photography), and Ciril Böhm from Ljubljana.
The miscellany, which purportedly »placed Slovenian artistic photography among the most relevant photographic nations«, was mentioned in foreign photography journals. There were also a few foreign orders for the miscellany (an American club ordered 30 copies for its members, an admirer from Holland – 13 copies for his friends). Fotoklub Ljubljana received numerous commendations for its miscellany, among others also from the office of the royal court.6
In the German edition of the Die Galerie journal H. Peters, a German photography critic reviewed the miscellany. Slovenian readers could read about his article in the Slovenian paper Jutro: »Due to the variety of selected motifs we may be surprised to see the author designate general typical Slovenian mood as lyrical. However, upon closer examination of the reproduced photographs, we shall eagerly concur. Gratitude expressed for this book of photographs lends us hope for future publication of Slovenian authors, for we would like to no longer be missing out on their contribution to international artistic photography.«7
Inter alia, Slovenska fotografija miscellany reports that Fotoklub Ljubljana assumed the task of uniting all serious amateur and professional photographers in a single organization, which would serve »progress of Slovenian artistic photography and its recognition at home and abroad«, organize exhibitions, internal and public lectures, expert theoretical and practical evenings, evenings of art photography evaluation, excursions and social gatherings, intervene on behalf of its members for lower-priced photography materials and admittance at foreign exhibitions. Members had access to a well-equipped darkroom and expert assistance. Once every two years the photo club’s programme was obligated to organise a minimum of one international exhibition and publish a miscellany of Slovenian photography.8
The miscellany included an excerpt from the club’s rules, emphasising that regular and trainee members held equal rights (usage of club’s equipment, attendance of club evenings and competitions, purchase of photographic requisites), both had the right of passive and active suffrage at general meetings. Only the number of trainees allowed to sit on the committee was limited. Trainees were made regular members after having submitted at least five technically and artistically satisfactory photographs or featured at least one photograph at a club’s exhibition. Members were obligated to submit at least five photographs annually for the society’s internal exhibition.9
Reproductions of photographs in the miscellany represent: Srechko Grom, Lojze Pengal, Fran Krashovec, Ljubo Vidmajer, Adolf Vizjak, Ivo Gogala, Peter Kocjanchich, Zlatica Gogala, Slavko Smolej, Lujo Michieli, Marjan Pfeifer, Ivo Ciril Böhm, Janko Skerlep, Ivo Frelih, Maks Gliha, Josip Pogachnik, Ante Kornich, Viktor Vodishek, Karlo Kocjanchich, Janko Ravnik, Josip Schleimer, Karel Pechenko, Lojze Erjavec, Danilo Dougan, Ivan Bonach, Franc Ferjan, Janko Branc, Karel Bolaffio, Franc Bazelj, Albert Starzhik (primarily a member of the FKL, after moving to Zagreb a member of the FK Zagreb) and Otokar Hrazdira (Croatian photographer). Branc, Frelih, Karlo Kocjanchich, Pechenko, Pfeifer, Pogachnik, Schlemier, Vidmajer and Vizjak were represented in the miscellany with two photographs each, and Gliha, Grom, Krashovec, Peter Kocjanchich, Kornich, Michieli, Pengal, Ravnik and Skerlep with three each.10
The selection of photographs aimed to reflect the predominant trends of Slovenian photography. According to the club’s secretary and author of the editorial Karl Kocjanchich their common characteristic was »a sort of retreat from the tumultuous battlegrounds of the – until recently prevailing – slogans for the perfect ‘new materialism, photographic expressionism and futurism, into the calm harbour of an older – as they say – ‘seasoned’, ‘romantic’, ‘impressionist’ view of the world.« »Even men who once stirred our spirits at local exhibitions with their attempts at modernism no longer swear by it.« Kocjanchich pointed out frequent use of diffusers and steel engraving and a predominance of landscape motifs. Slovenian photography looked to the first quarter of the century »when its champion Avgust Berthold and his followers conveyed the idyllic setting of the Slovenian village, the might of Slovenian mountains, the unobtrusive vibrancy of the old life.« A return to the past was only possible to a degree, as war and post-war social upheaval were too disruptive and also affected art. »It would therefore be more fitting to designate the position of today’s Slovenian photography as a return to the old, which is expanded by drawing from the views and practices of modern man. This is where Slovenian photography, which for a few years uncritically waivered between the past and the present, is building its new national content; its foreign influence is perhaps most evident in its fervour for primitivist separation of bright and dark surfaces, cultivation of a simplified line, rejection of the overladen motif. It is said all art is evolving in this direction. The general mood is manifestly Slovenian lyrical. This lyricism is sooner cheerful, firm, or even dark than sentimentally soft, which is not the core of Slovenian spirit. We think all these elements of contemporary Slovenian photography are very clearly evident in the works of some of its representatives published here.«11 Karlo Kocjanchich also pointed out the difference between non organized photographers and members of Fotoklub Ljubljana. The former purportedly exhibited a tendency to copy out-dated foreign examples while the Ljubljana Fotoklub was relentlessly advancing towards its greater objective, i.e. »creating the new Slovenian national photography established on Slovenian spirit.« »Today the works of this group exhibit an established style and content; a year or two of further progress in this vein, a bit more focus on the local characteristics of our land and life, a bit more clarity for individuals, a bit more technical precision – and Slovenian photography will stand before the world, side by side with the likes of Japanese, Hungarian, Spanish or any other photography renowned for emerging entirely from its people, which makes itsomething entirely singular.«12
Only a few individual members of Fotoklub Ljubljana utilised such approaches as we associate with new materialism in photography (a leaning towards objectivity, materialism, the precise conveying of reality, use of unusual perspectives, motifs such as portraits, nudes, still lifes). In the miscellany Slovenska Fotografija these approaches are present in »Oranges« by Luj Michieli and »Dew on a Spider Web« by Janko Skerlep. Characteristics of the new materialist photography also emerge in the photography opuses of Fran Krashovec, Karel Kocjanchich, Jozhe Kovachich, and Marjan Pfeifer.
The selection of photographs in the miscellany ostensibly confirmed that Slovenian photographers purposefully leaned on older pictorialist paragons. Supposedly, the lyrical mood prevailed. In his editorial cited above, Karlo Kocjanchich also saw this in minimalist motifs (such as A. Starzhik, »Silence«).
The most prevalent among the published landscape motifs was the ‘impressionist-style’ of capturing light and atmospheric effects (M. Gliha, »On the Ploughed Road«, P. Kocjanchich, »Before the Storm«, A. Kornich, »Café«, L. Michieli, »The Bridge«, K. Pechenko, »In the Early Morning«, M. Pfeifer, »Morning by Sava River«, J. Schleimer, »The Hayrack«). Alpine motifs, which until recently prevailed among printed publications in magazines, are rare (L. Erjavec, »Morning in the Mountains«, J. Ravnik »Spring in the Mountains«, S. Grom, »Above the Fog«). Peter Kocjanchich supplied the most well known landscape »White Fields« which received a silver plaque at an exhibition in Zagreb (as did »Buckwheat in Bloom«, »Awakening«). At the same exhibition a silver plaque was also awarded Marjan Pfeifer for his photograph »Morning by Sava River« (also »The Victory of the Sun«).13
The broader categories include portraits (M. Gliha, »Dalmatian Shepherd«, K. Kocjanchich, »Portrait With no Eyes«, F. Krashovec »Painter R. Jakopich«, L. Pengal, »Alma«, J. Pogachnik, »Prayer«, J. Ravnik, »Portrait«, S. Smolej, »Self-portrait«), and photographs of children (F. Bazelj, »Playing by the Sea Z. Gogala, »Little Fisher Boy«, L. Pengal, »Maypole« and »Spring«, L. Vidmajer, »Gypsy Child, A. Vizjak, »On Stilts« – Vizjak was also represented with a child’s nude). Some photographers opted for endearing animal motifs (I. Bonach, »Disapointment«, F. Ferjan, »Puppies«). Scenes depicting work were less frequent (P. Kocjanchich, »Asphalt«, J. Branc »Gravel«), as were still lifes and examples of sports photography (V. Vodishek, »Shot Putter«). Shots from a higher level were utilised by O. Hrazdira, A. Kornich, and A. Vizjak, M. Pfeifer shot the »Across the Footbridge« photographs from a lower level.
Also photographers interested in more modern approaches to the photography medium didn’t find criticism helpful. Dr. France Stelè maintains that the majority of the photographs in the miscellany opted for light and atmospheric moods in their motifs over realism. There are only two exceptions: »Spring« by Otokar Hradzir, who raised eye level, opening new possibilities of photographic expression, and »Wretched People« by Fran (Franc Chorota) Shkodlar, »efficiently capturing the slightly societally emphasised everyday reality using a Russian realist approach to photography and film«.
According to France Stelè photography equipped with »the new-realist devices aught to concentrate more on modern life and »the romance of our homesteads« (settlements). »Presently our photography generates predominantly personal stories interesting to individual photographers, while we would expect from them above all documents for the future.«14
A critic at Slovenski narod was also of the opinion that the art of photography must be tied to life, which is why social motifs are more appropriate than lyrical photographs, which take as their central subjects clouds, trees, and landscapes. Photographed still lifes and objects are interesting but they lack life and distinctiveness; they demonstrate the level of technical capacity of photography. »More profound ideas must be displayed. This is why we are delighted that the miscellany also exhibits works attesting that life is not just lyrical but also epic, and often also tragic.«15
In 1936 the selection of photographs from the Slovenska fotografija miscellany were also published by the leading bulletin of the German amateur association in Czechoslovakia Das Lichtbild as well as the largest German photography journal Photographische Rundschau (April 1936, no. 8, pp. 140-141).16
A second representative miscellany of Slovenian photography was to be published in 1937. Already in its first miscellany Fotoklub Ljubljana suggested to its members that they submit their photographs for review by the permanent jury of the club; only previously unpublished photograph would be considered.17
The club did not succeed in publishing this miscellany, instead the catalogue of the Second International Photography Exhibit, organised by the club in 1938 in Ljubljana, was devised to double as »the second miscellany of Slovenian photography«; this is why it featured exclusively photographs by Slovenian photographers (twenty reproductions).18 The Slovenska fotografija miscellany was reprinted in softcover for the second international exhibit. It was identical in content to the first edition. The visitors of the exhibit and catalogue buyers were able to purchase it at a discount.19
2 In: »Slovenska fotografija«, Jutro, 1935, no. 103.
4 In: »Zbornik slov. fotografije«, Slovenec, 1935, no. 112. – FKL helped members get lower prices for photography materials (discount with certain photography neccessities dealers). Representatives of Agfa, Gevaert, Kodak, Kraft & Steudel, Mimosa, Perutz, Satrap, and Zeiss Ikon published a notice in Jutro, Slovenski narod and Slovenec stating that they allow no discounts on their products. The club responded to this notice by calling on its members to boycott products by the said companies and rather purchase their gear together through the club. In December 1931, the club published a notice that it would only use photography materials of sympathetic companies; a meeting of all photo-amateurs (members and non-members of the club) was called with a view to organizing an action against photography representatives (in: Karlo Kocjanchich, »30. 11./1. 12. 1931«» The journal of Fotoklub Ljubljana; »Statement«, Jutro, 1931, no. 280; »Fotoamaterje …«, Jutro, 1931, no. 280).
9 Ibid. – Srechko Grom became the club’s first chairman, Stanko Ribnikar vice-chairman, Karlo Kocjanchich was secretary, Cveto Shvigelj treasurer, committee members were Janko Ravnik, Egon Planinshek, and Viktor Vodishek, deputies Janko Skerlep and Lojze Pengal. Arbitration members were Fran Krashovec, Karlo Sketelj and Engr. Gustav Ogrin, auditors Tone Ogrin and Ante Gaber. Most of the first general assembly of October 1931 opposed differentiating between regular and apprentice members. To this end a special general assembly was called. At the committee’s behest the founding assembly’s resolution was delayed, which provisioned that only regular members held suffrage. (in: »Izredni obchni zbor Fotokluba«, Slovenski narod, 1931, no. 257). This resulted in nearly half the committee members including Chairman Srechko Grom stepping down, insisting that the club should be devoted to a fairly limited circle of prominent amateur photographers. At the special assembly, 26 January 1932, a new committee was elected: chairman Lojze Pengal, vice-chairman Karlo Skatelj, secretary Karlo Kocjanchich, treasurer Cveto Shvigelj, committee members Viktor Vodishek, Peter Kocjanchich, and Janko Vertin, deputies Zlata Gogala and Prof. Avgust Ivanchich, auditors Maks Kajfezh and Tone Kunstelj, arbitration members Ante Gaber, Gustav Ogrin, and Ivo Gogala (in: »Izredni obchni zbor ljubljanskega Fotokluba«, Slovenski narod, 1932, no. 22).
10 In February 1935, FKL elected a new committee: chairman Srechko Grom, vice-chairman prof. Janko Branc, committee members Ciril Böhm, Ivan Habich, Prof. Janko Ravnik, Janko Skerlep and Lojze Pengal, their deputies Karlo Kocjanchich, Engr. Lujo Michieli, auditors Karel Bolaffio and Shtefan Ormozh, arbitration and jury members Ante Gaber, Ivo Gogala, and Peter Kocjanchich (in: »Nashi fotoamaterji so zborovali«, Slovenski narod, 1935, no. 39).
13 In: »Krasne fotografije«, Slovenski narod, 1934, no. 250; »Chasten uspeh nashih fotoamaterjev«, Jutro, 1935, no. 278. – Kocjanchich’s »White Fields« are published on the cover of the catalogue 150 let fotografije na Slovenskem 1919–1945, Ljubljana 1990.
19 In: »Obisk Druge mednarodne razstave umetnishke fotografije«, Jutro, 1936, no. 110. – Some members of the FKL also published their photographs in miscellanies Iz nashih gora [From our Mountains], issued between 1938 and 1940 by the Slovenian Alpine Society (selection of photographs from the Planinski vestnik). Iz nashih gora 1935 comprised nearly 50 photographs (V. Cizelj, F. Krashovec, J. Ravnik, J. Skerlep, C. Shvigel). In June 1935, Fran Krashovec prepared a miscellany of photographs Slovenska zemlja v podobah [Slovenian Lands in Images] (Druzhba Sv. Mohorja, Celje), of 150 photographs, published between 1927 and 1935 in the Mladika journal. In 1935, at least one other photo publication was issued. The Nashi kraji v sliki album, published by Tiskovna zadruga Ljubljana, contained 87 photographs in copper plate print (among others F. Krashovec, J. Ravnik, E. Planinshek).
Srechko Grom, Marjetice.
Josip Schleimer, Kozolec.