Photography, travel and history enthusiasts will all find something interesting in Witold Marczewski’s photographs, which will be shown at our first exhibition of this author’s works opening 31 March! With the photographs donated to the HMH by the Marczewski Family, visitors will have the opportunity to travel back in time to the beginning of the 20th century and accompany Marczewski, an electrical engineer passionate about photography, in his numerous travels and photographic adventures.
From the oil fields of Azerbaijani Baku, through Istanbul, Greece, France, Italy to Polish villages and cities including Lublin, Puławy, Kazimierz Dolny and Warsaw. It seems that wherever he went (and he travelled extensively!), Witold Marczewski took at least one camera with him. How did he fall in love with photography? This we don’t know. However, his passion was strong enough to result in thousands of rolls of film and glass negatives. As many as a third of them are stereoscopic photographs – a phenomenon so popular back then that we may find it surprising today.
From 1,400 photographs that have already been digitized by the efforts of the Archaeology of Photography Foundation, curators Anna Brzezińska and Barbara Roszuk-Galus have selected over a hundred. Their selection is a cross-section of works of a “visionary from the beginning of the last century”, as Marczewski is described by the curators in the album accompanying the exhibition. It comprises landscape and architectural photographs, as well as press shots documenting historical events (such as Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict and protests on the streets of Kyiv in 1918), everyday life of the people of the visited countries and their portraits. The collection also includes snapshots of the Marczewski family and studio photographs. In the words of the curators, these images provide “exciting impressions and amazing shots – especially for the times in which Witold Marczewski took his pictures”.
In a way, this exhibition is also a reminder of the two chapters of the Polish history of photography. The first focuses on a photographer who “travelled around the world with his big, bulky camera, and passion and talent, which predispose him to be called a professional photographer”. A man who, in the press, engaged in discussions about photographic principles with none other than Jan Bułhak and “acting on the verge of arrogance”, as photographer Krzysztof Wójcik notes, highlighted to the masters the advantages of advancing technology in the service of photography that they seemed to disregard.
The second is dedicated to the role of stereoscopic photography, which at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries reigned in salons along with photographs to which we are now accustomed. This modern habit causes us to “often omit the ‘three-dimensional’ chapter” when looking at the history of photography. And yet, as Krzysztof Wójcik notes, “stereoscopic photographs produced by specialized companies with hundreds of motifs and in thousands of copies played a similar role in the second half of the 19th century to the invention of television a hundred years later, bringing the world closer together”. To enhance the enjoyment of Marczewski’s shots and avoid unnecessary queues (as a stereoscope is a device for individual use), stereoscopic photographs are presented at the exhibition using lenticular film and a special modern printing technique to give the impression of three-dimensionality.
To the viewer, Witold Marczewski’s photographic adventures reveal a multitude of stories about the diverse perspectives of history. Among them, of course, a story about the history of photography, the development of its technology and the role of the photographic image in twentieth-century societies. There are also records of various local stories and historical events. Moreover, these pictures serve as a springboard for telling the story of journeys, travelling, and mobility (or lack thereof) depending on social status. How many more stories are there in these shots? Discover them yourself until 25 September 2022!
The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual Polish-English album From Baku to Paris. The Photographic Adventures of Witold Marczewski, which includes some of the photographs presented at the exhibition.
Curators: Anna Brzezińska, Barbara Roszuk-Galus
Graphic design: ONTO studio (Kaja Nosal and Anna Wręga)
Editor: Małgorzata Purzyńska
Photo scanning: Archaeology of Photography Foundation
Pre-press: Tomasz Kubaczyk, Zbyszek Kordys
Digital restoration and preparation of 3D photos: Miłosz Hermanowicz
Project coordination and production: Barbara Roszuk-Galus
Proofreading: Joanna Dąbrowska-Resiak
Translation: Marek Błaszkiewicz-Juszczęć
Production: Pracownia Trytrak
Printing: Andrus, 3D Print
PR team: Anna Adamczyk, Agata Krajewska, Milena Ryćkowska
Cooperation: Jerzy Tarłowski