Saturday, June 20, 2015

Young Dancers, Pozega, Croatia, by Atelier Wollner, circa 1920s

This RPPC (Real Photo Post Card) was produced at the Atelier Wollner in Prozega, Croatia (what was then Yugoslavia), a small Eastern European city whose history stretches back a thousand, or so, years.


$22.00 USD by Red Poulain via Etsy:

There was a C. Wollner there, making photographic portraits on cartes de visites in the late 19th century, and quite possibly this is the same Wollner, or another member of the family, the name of the studio having changed over time from C. Wollner, to Atelier (workshop, or studio) Wollner, as additional family members, or business partners joined in.

Was the photographer a man or a woman? We don't know, but it might surprise you to find out just how many photographic studios were actually operated by women. According to an article we found on Wikipedia, prior to World War II in Vienna, Austria, most of the photo studios were in fact operated by women, and most of these were Jewish women! This implies that at least 25% of photo studios in Vienna at that time were operated by Jewish women. Why does this matter? Because it gives us a valuable perspective on the images we love.

Way back in the 1850s, in the early days of photography, both women, and Jews, flocked to the profession. Let's remember that in those days, society placed all kinds of roadblocks in the path of those two groups of people (among others, of course), limiting their potential involvement in industry, business, and the arts. But photography was new! It was not broadly accepted in the well established arts community, and so there were no centuries-old guilds that had established rules (often legislated) restricting the professional participation of people who were so often limited in their choices of work and creative expression.

These opportunities carried forward into the 20th century, and into the publication of picture postcards, where all across Europe, and in the USA as well, a very large percentage of the people involved with the cards we sell were Jewish, and a much larger percentage than we might have imagined, women.

The Wollners of Prozega, for example, were probably Jewish. We know of at least one, an Else Wollner, born in 1902, who was a Jew, and who was murdered while in her early forties, by the fascists at Auschwitz in 1944. Many members of the Wollner family (unnamed in the records we accessed) perished in the holocaust, though we were unable to find any records concerning a C. Wollner, or a Wollner who was a photographer.

We apologize for letting some of the dark into this listing. We honestly feel that our images are not merely flat photographic prints, but that they live in a way, and are imbued with their original environment and with the life experiences, not only of their subjects, but of their makers too. So, knowing a little more about these ephemeral elements of their make up helps to round out, and add depth, lending, for example, a poignance to this wonderful image that takes us back to what was still a kinder time, filled with the joy of this group of lovely young ladies, taking pleasure in what was perhaps a recent, and triumphant performance.