‘Soft’ shooting? Introducing the history of women’s photography in Croatia
15. 6. – 4. 9. 2020.
Photos by Marko Ercegović
With the selection of Slavka Pavić’s, Erika Šmider’s, Danijela Lušin’s, Ivančica Privora-Kurtela’s and Jadranka Fatur’s works we draw attention to the topics they covered, get to know the means through which they acquired their knowledge and get to know the events which at least partially influenced and left their mark on these artist’s works.
In the history of Croatian photography there are still many topics and themes that need exploring, not to mention that the development of the medium itself is still waiting to be properly synthesised. When talking about the photography of post-war Croatia one has to acknowledge that it is severely marked by the limited opportunities for education, the underdeveloped exhibition politics and the almost complete lack of a critics scene. One of the major roles in the development of Croatia’s photography was played by amateur club photography – the so called photo clubs, particularly during the late 40s and the first half of the 50s. One of their most important functions was precisely the education of amateur photographers. It should be noted that the Photo Club Zagreb was one of the strongest in the whole of ex-Yugoslavia and played a vital part in the general technical education of the population, thus setting the foundations for the artistic work of its members. After a brief period of ideological dominance, a new sort of liberation occurred at the beginning of the 50s, allowing amateur club photography to take over. This would prove crucial for the development of women’s photography. While women photographers had worked and participated in club activities throughout the post-war period, their first collective appearance on the centre stage did not take place until 1973, when following the initiative of club president Đuro Griesbach the Women’s Section of the Photo Club was founded. Their first exhibition was organised that same year in the Gallery of Artistic Photography (Galerija umjetničke fotografije – GUF), in Zagreb, with more events to follow annually in the Zagreb City Museum on the 8th of March, the traditionally celebrated Women’s Day.
The exhibition ‘Soft’ shoooting? is not, however, meant to be a retrospective of the Women’s Section’s achievements on the national map of photography. Its primary intention is to encourage a discussion about the ways and journeys of women photographers. The first fact that needs to be acknowledged is that when it comes to the territory of ex-Yugoslavia women photographers entered the scene late and not without obstacles. The printed media were key to introducing photography into the various levels of society. While specialised photography magazines were in no short supply, the first of which having been published in Yugoslavia in 1911, most of them were devoted to technical questions – offering advice to amateur photographers and advertising new products. This state of things would continue for quite some time and the idea of women’s photography would not even begin to be considered until after World War II and even then rather sporadically and unsystematically. A handful of women photographers were active within private photography studios. Acting within the confines of a studio was considered appropriate for women, mostly due to the opinion that this type of isolation allowed for a more intense relationship with the subjects and in which women were believed to be more successful than men.
Photography was not only embraced by artists working exclusively in that field, but also by artists who were introduced to it through their education at various art schools and academies both at home and abroad. Nonetheless, it was the photo clubs who truly generated the changes that marked the period between the 1950s and 80s.
With the selection of Slavka Pavić’s, Erika Šmider’s, Danijela Lušin’s, Ivančica Privora-Kurtela’s and Jadranka Fatur’s works we draw attention to the topics they covered, get to know the means through which they acquired their knowledge and get to know the events which at least partially influenced and left their mark on these artist’s works. We will ask ourselves: is there such a thing as a critical depiction of society? What did the others say about women holding cameras? And is there even something that could be described as a “woman’s gaze”? Is the way they took their images truly “soft”, or is there no such thing as gender behind the lens? – these are the questions that the exhibition will address.
The exhibition is part of Not Yet Written Stories – Women Artists’ Archives Online, an international research project funded by Creative Europe , in which Office for Photography collaborates with the Arton Foundation in Warsaw, SCCA – Centre for Modern Art in Ljubljana and the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art in Riga. The aim of this project is to include the works of women artists into public discourse about visual arts in order to avert their further discrimination and mostly elimination from the European history of art.
Curator: Sandra Križić Roban
Assistant: Sara Simić
This post is also available in: Croatian