Curator: Lara Štrumej
Photographers: from the 2nd half ot the 19th century (among them Janez Arzenšek, Lovrenc Funtek, Ernest Pogorelc, Davorin Rovšek, Jožef Zalar, Emil Dzimski, Lorenz Krach, Aleksander Landau); Polde Bricelj, Janko Ravnik, Slavko Smolej, Lojze Spacal, Peter Kocjančič, Tone Stojko, Aleksandra Vajd
Museum of Modern Art, 24 September 2019 — 26 November 2019
Spanning the period from the late 19th through the early 21st centuries, this exhibition of photo albums and artist’s photobooks gives us an insight into material acquired for Moderna galerija’s photographic collection since its founding in 1991.
The exhibits are displayed in glass cases, while their contents are presented on videos. The individual items are also accompanied by short texts, and are interesting not only because of the photographs, which give them value and meaning, but also for their appearance and the workmanship of their execution; some of them are real gems of craftsmanship.
This is particularly the case with the earliest two albums, containing portrait photographs of the carte de visite size taken by Slovene and foreign photographers active in various parts of Slovenia in the first decades of the existence of the medium. Their appearance is almost more reminiscent of medieval codices than photo albums in the modern sense. Metal clasps on both, corner protectors on one and a metal plate with a decoration in relief on the front cover on the other are some of the elements familiar from the history of bookbinding of mediaeval manuscripts. Together with other decoration, e.g. a debossed ornament around the edges of the mountings or the gilt edges of the covers, these serve a single purpose: to reinforce the significance or the emotional value the albums’ contents – photographs – had for their owners.
Generally speaking, the albums take the form of books, providing a friendly abode for photographs. In them, these thin paper objects are protected from light, do not come in contact with one another, and are less likely to suffer mechanical injuries when being viewed. Moreover, they can be combined into meaningful units, which made albums a popular form of keeping photographs soon after the invention of the medium.
The communicative value of lavishly decorated photo album covers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries was soon taken over by the form of album or book, that is, its size, the decoration of the cover and the interior, all testifying indirectly to the worlds within the albums, with which they meld into indelible wholes.
The culture of bringing photographs together in albums was particularly widespread in the period between the two world wars and immediately after World War II. Those photographers who wanted to see their most representative photographs neatly and clearly arranged, opted for custom-made albums for their prints, more rarely for mass-produced ones. Particularly noteworthy are the albums where the covers and the sheets with photographs are attached together with special metal clasps or bound with string in such a way that individual leaves can be extracted or their order changed; such examples are Janko Ravnik’s (before 1940) and Slavko Smolej’s (1949) albums.
The other albums on view at the exhibition are in the form of a contemporary bound book. They are a bibliophilic edition – Peter Kocjančič’s photo book (1941–1951) – and one-offs: Lojze Bricelj’s album about the building of the Nebotičnik (Skyscraper) in Ljubljana (1932), Lojze Spacal’s Slovene Littoral album (1945), and Tone Stojko’s books (1973–1977). They all contain original analogue photographic prints. The exhibit that is closest in time – Aleksandra Vajd’s masterpiece (2003) – is in the form of a printed book and has an original print included in the first twenty bibliophilic editions.
Polde Bricelj, Construction of the Pension Institute Palace in Ljubljana, Finished in 1932; 1931–1933