Memory Factories: Professional Photography in Kyiv, 1850-1918
Keywords:історія фотографії, Київ, фотографічний портрет, модернізація, дев’ятнадцяте століття, ательє, професійні фотографи, меморіальні практики, візуальні архіви
The article deals with the early history of photographic industry in Kyiv as a complex cultural phenomenon. Special attention is focused on the portrait photography as a ‘technology of memory’. It involves methods of social history of art, prosopography and visual anthropology. The study is based on the wide scope of archival documents, including the correspondence of publishing facilities inspector, who supervised the photographic activity in Kyiv from 1888 to 1909. By the early 20th century, making, collecting, displaying and exchanging the photographic portraits became an important memorial practice for townspeople throughout the world. In the pre-WWI Kyiv dozens of ateliers produced photographic portraits in large quantities. While the urbanization and economic growth boosted migration activity and washed out traditional family and neighborhood networks, the photography provided an instrument for maintaining emotional connections between people. The author emphasizes the role of a professional photographer who acted as a maker of ‘memory artifacts’ for individuals and families and, therefore, established aesthetic standards for their private visual archives. It is stated that the professional photography played a noticeable role in modernization and westernization of Kyiv. With its relatively low barrier to entry, it provided a professionalization opportunity for women, representatives of the lower social classes or discriminated ethnic groups (such as Poles after the January Insurrection, and Jews). While working in a competitive environment, photographers had to adopt new technologies, improve business processes and increase their own educational level. At the same time, their artistic freedom was rather limited. The style of photographic portrait was inherited from the Eighteen and Nineteen-century academic art, so it is usually hard to distinguish photographic portraits made in Kyiv or in any other European city of that period. Body language of models, their clothing and personal adornments as well as studio decorations and accessories aimed to construct the image of successful individuals, faithful friends, closely tied family members with their own strictly defined social roles etc. The old-fashioned style of the early twentieth century portraiture shaped the visual aesthetics of photographic portrait that was noticeable enough even several decades later.