MIL OSI Translation. Region: Russian Federation –
We examine pre-revolutionary photographs from the collection of the Garden Ring Museum and study the history of Moscow photo salons – from the 1840s to 1917.
The invention in the first half of the 19th century by the Frenchman Louis Daguerre daguerreotype – the technology of photographing on a chemically treated metal plate – marked the beginning of the era of the photo studio. How the first photo studios in Moscow worked and which of them were the most popular – in a joint article by mos.ru and the Mosgortur agency.
Portrait in the interior
One of the first Moscow photo studio was the portrait photography salon opened in 1840 by the engraver Alexei Grekov, the inventor who was the first to use photographs in printing. The furnishings of Grekov’s studio, like other studios of his time, were rather modest and laconic. In a small room with a glazed ceiling and windows, there was only a camera and a chair for a client with a special support for the head, which allowed him to stay in one position for a long time. The first portraits were shot at a very long exposure, so people in photographs turned out with their eyes closed – it was impossible not to blink for several minutes. A retoucher was involved in drawing the eyes in the studio, who also eliminated all inaccuracies in the photographs and, at the request of the client, painted the portraits in watercolors.
Everything changed in the next decade. Painted backgrounds with different subjects, such as the interior of the apartment, the seaside and the rural landscape, appeared in the photo studio. In the second half of the 19th century, thanks to technological progress and the growth in the number of professional photographers, photography became available to a wide range of interested persons, and photo studios were opened in many Russian cities. By that time, these were spacious premises with several rooms and varied furnishings. They were furnished with typical furniture – these were tables, cabinets, screens and backdrops with rich interiors of mansions. A client could bring furniture with him if, for example, he wanted to be captured in his favorite chair.
In the photo studio of the 1870s, there was already not one, but several cameras for shooting and a whole staff of employees: the owner, photographers and retouchers. If in the first photo salons the masters called themselves artists and considered their works to be a work of art, then with the growing popularity of photography and the increase in the number of photographers, the photography studio’s products lost their artistic status, but they did not become less in demand.
Let there be light
Until the end of the 19th century, only natural light was used in photographic establishments. This affected both the special structure of the premises and the working hours of the photo studio – from 10 to 15 hours and only in clear weather.
The first photo salons resembled workshops of painters: the glass ceiling of a small room with an area of 40-50 square meters was covered with sliding curtains so that overhead lighting could be controlled. Windows and even walls were an additional source of light. The northern, non-solar wall of the studio was also glass – even light came through it, and the southern one was made solid to avoid sun glare on the clients’ faces.
With the advent of electric lighting in the 1880s, photo studios began to work in the evenings, and at the beginning of the 20th century, photography became fashionable for shooting with flash, and now photo salons could fulfill the client’s wishes at any time and in any weather conditions.
Short era of mat
The second half of the 19th century was the time of the popularity of portraiture in photography. Full-length pictures of models were exhibited in the shop windows of a photo studio, photographs with their own images were given to friends and hung in houses instead of paintings. The photo taken in the salon of that time was a positive, pasted on the letterhead of the photo studio – a mat.
The passport indicated the name and address of the company, information about the photographer and his regalia, year and month of shooting. The Press Act of 1865 obliged all photo studios to release photographs only on branded mats: “Announce with subscriptions to all owners of photographic establishments so that they, under fear of legal liability, would not release photographic works from their establishments without the designation of the photography company and that pictures from paintings and prints were printed only with censorship.
In 1890, Russian photo studios adopted the following mat formats: business (62 by 101 millimeters), mignon (40 by 78), cabinet, or office-portrait (108 by 166), stereoscopic (88 by 178), boudoir (135 by 220), imperial (175 x 250) and panel (180 x 320). The most demanded were business and office. The first ones were given as a souvenir and were often used as an identity card – if an official made a note on such a business card, it could replace a passport. Pictures of the second format were at home in frames or were kept in family albums. Most often, these were group photos, because the pleasure was not cheap: an armchair portrait cost four rubles for six photographs, while a business one cost one and a half rubles for the same number of copies.
The owners of the atelier ordered a mat from printing factories in Moscow or from printing houses. The letterheads were printed on expensive Bristol cardboard and beautifully printed on the back. Not every photo studio could afford such a design – some were limited to just a stamp with information about the photographer. Sometimes, if the atelier ran out of mat with the required date of the shooting, the photo was pasted on the letterhead that was available, so that the dates on the photographs of those years do not always correspond to reality. In the 1910s, the production of mats dropped sharply, instead of Bristol cardboard, they began to use cheap paper, and gradually letterheads disappeared from the photo studio.
The word “passe-partout” (or passepartout) comes from the French language. The expression passe par tout literally translates as “goes everywhere”: its original meaning is “master key”, “key to all doors”. In French today, it is also used to mean informal, suitable for any occasion. You can also hear it in the framing workshop – despite the fact that the era of mat in a photo studio ended in the 20th century. This is still called a sheet of cardboard or paper with a hole in the center, which allows you to harmoniously place an image in a larger frame or a shape that does not coincide with it.
Moscow photo studios
In the 1860s, 45 photo studios operated in Moscow, and by the beginning of the 20th century, their number continued to increase. Before the 1917 revolution, there were about 190 photo salons in the city, most of which were located in the Meshchansky district of the capital.
One of the most famous photographic establishments in the city was Friedrich Moebius’s photo studio. In 1850, a German photographer opened an institution on Tverskoy Boulevard, where he made and sold portraits, as well as photographs with images of Moscow. In 1860, the photo studio moved to a building on Bolshaya Lubyanka, and 20 years later changed not only the place of registration, moving to Myasnitskaya Street, but also the owner – Friedrich transferred the studio to his younger brother Yuli, who worked for him as a photographer and was familiar with all the subtleties profession. He continued the business until 1892, and then sold the photo studio to Adolf Richter, asking the new owner to keep the old name. The photographic institution “Yu. Mobius ”existed until 1917 and became famous not only as one of the first Moscow photo studio, but also as the place where Vladimir Lenin was photographed in 1900.
In 1867, Alexander Eichenwald opened his establishment on Petrovka. He became the first photographer in Moscow to use electric lighting in his work. Eichenwald was ahead of his colleagues not only in this – in 1876, the photographer, who returned from a trip abroad, began to shoot portraits in the boudoir genre (shooting spicy female portraits). In 1896 the photo studio was sold, but the institution retained its former name – “Artistic photography of A. Eichenwald”.
Another significant place was the Moscow photo studio of Otto Renard. Former photographer of the Serbian king Otto Renar opened an institution in the Bakhrushins’ apartment building on Tverskaya Street in 1881. At first, he worked only in a photo studio, but already in 1887 he began to take out orders: the photographer filmed theatrical performances, weddings and made family portraits in the clients’ house. For his work, Otto Renard has repeatedly received gold and silver medals at exhibitions in St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Moscow. In the early 1890s, Renard, together with Nikolai Nikolsky, opened a shop for photozincographic clichés, and in 1900 he sold his atelier and shop to a companion with the only condition – to keep the name of the company. Photo studio “Otto Renard” worked in the Bakhrushins’ house until 1917.
Professional benefactors. The history of the Bakhrushin dynasty
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.