Strenci Photographic Studio. Winter Backdrop 17.11. – 29.12.2023.

Since the early beginnings of photography – the mid-19th century – until the turn of the 20th/21st century, the creation of commercial or commissioned photo portraits was entrusted to professional photographers in photo salons.

As a sovereign ecosystem, for more than a century, the salon created points of social interaction between the customer and the society that saw the potential of visual self-representation in the medium of photography, and the performer – the photographer, who did his best to balance between the technical and artistic quality of the photo, as well as appeal to the consumer’s taste. The photo salon was also important in the popularization of the portrait genre – the consumption and circulation of images. Along with the dynamic development of photography technology, in the 20th century and the 21st century in the meantime, the photo portrait genre, and the photo salon industry as a whole also experienced changes, when photographers began to do commissioned photos outside the photo studio, document photo portraits were provided by the official of the relevant institution, etc. These changes create a different context for producing portraits and undeniably change the communication between the “photographer” and the “model”, as well as the visualization of the portrait.

Exhibition “Strenci Photographic Studio. Winter Backdrop” focuses on the activities of the Strenci Photo Workshop salon in the 1920s and 1930s, reconstructing the environment with authentic salon items and inventory. The central element of the exhibition is the “Winter backdrop”, painted by the artist Indrikis Zeberins (1882–1969) on the order of Davis Spunde (1878–1960), the founder of the Strenci Photo Workshop. Spunde founded the Strenci Photo Workshop in 1909. In 1913, a modernized photo workshop building was set up at Rigas Street 17, in Strenci, with glass panes in the roof part, which allowed for more effective regulation of lighting during photo sessions. During the operation of the Strenci Photo Workshop from 1910 to early 1980s, the following photographers worked – Janis Ziemelnieks (real name Janis Krauklis, 1897–1930), Konrads Krauklis (1899–1978), Elza Kraukle (1910–1985), and assistants Gunta Kraukle (1937) and Janis Krauklis (1946–2011).

Since 2004, the Glass Plate Collection of Strenci Photo Workshop, covers more than 13,000 glass plate negatives, is in the collection of the Latvian Museum of Photography. The collection is an important documentary evidence of life, traditions, and ways of working in Strenci, as well as in its wider surroundings in the north-east of Vidzeme, covering a longer period of time – from 1910 to 1950. Considering the uniqueness of this photographic heritage, in 2021 the collection was included in the Latvian national register of the UNESCO program “Memory of the World”.

The accompanying program of the exhibition will offer a portrait photo session in the salon with one of the contemporary photographers – Astrida Meirane, Ieva Epnere, Armands Andze, Gunars Binde, Janis Deinats, Reinis Hofmanis.

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Curator: Baiba Tetere

Photography technology consultant: Armands Andze

Artists: Ieva Sture, Erlands Rubins

Restorers: Ineta Augustina, Olga Loginova, Anete Strautmane, Ramona Gailite

The exhibition includes items from: Latvian Museum of Photography and private collections.

Supported by: State Cultural Capital Fund, LG Electronics