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Agnieszka Pawlus
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Post Posted: Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:01 am      Post subject: Michał Greim's photographs - the exhibition in Kraków
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Last Friday I have attended the opening of an unusual exhibition in Kraków: "A dim light. The photographs of Michał Greim (1828-1911)" . The exhibition is in Etnographic Museum in Kraków and it is possible to visit from 27 July to 22 december 2013.

I decided to share this with you, as I think that through these pictures we can have a look to the everyday life in the past. Most of all to the incredible poverty of these times.

I have the exhibition catalog so I will post some pictures for you every day.

To begin with, there is a few words about Michał Greim, by Wojciech Nowicki, the curator, translated by Jessica Taylor-Kucia:

"Michał Greim was born in 1828 in Żelechów near Garwolin in present-day eastern Poland. He attended the district school and then learned printing trade.In 1852 he became the director of the government printing house in Kaieniec Podolski (now Kamianets Podilskyi, Ukraine); twenty years later, in 1872, he was removed from the function as a Pole - in the partition of the Polish lands, Kamieniec had fallen into Russian hands, and the tsar was not well disposed towards Poles. In 1871 Greim bought the local photographic studio from the Kyiv photographer Józef Kordysz, and set up his own business there.

Initially he was rather unfamiliar with his new trade, and probably did not expect running a business to be such a burden: Kamieniec was something of a one-horse town, not on any major traffic routes, and virtually devoid of industry. Greim had difficulty paying for the business he had bought. His studio customers - the people who came to have ordinary portraits made for calling cards - appear to bore him somewhat, and he treated them rather offhandedly. Perhaps he felt called to other things, higher things?
(...)
In time he devoted less and less attention to running the photograph studio, throwing himself to wholeheartedly instead into his antiques shop. Whether as a photographer, numismatist or antique trader, or prior to these, printer, he appears merely to have been attempting to make a living, and in what way he succeeded seemed to be all the same to him. He tried his hand at all manner of things, though numismatics was certainly his passion.(...)
So what was photography in his life? Perhaps it was not particularly important? This was probably not the case, even though he treated it above all simply as an occupation, a craft, and one sometimes has the impression that he was not overly fond of it. The portrait commissions made in his studio are often stiffy posed and unimaginative.
So what is about Greim's work that sets it apart from that of others? This is to some extent difficult to pin down, because in an obvious way he is a relatively typical example of a nineteenth-century studio photographer. His photographs contain all of the elements so characteristic of the photography of their times - suffice to compare them with the output of any other professional Polish photographer of the period: they all took photographs in the same way (indeed, similarly to the way photographs being taken all over the world).
(...) So on the one hand we have typicality. (...) On the other, Greim's work has something more, a successful attempt, the evident need, to be beyond the standard: he does fairly frequent plain-air shoots, he devotes quite a lot of time to creating what we might today call a documentary catalog. For the photographs from Kamieniec Podolski preserved in Krakow's Ethnographic Museum together comprise something that we might term a collection of people.
(...) Greim was chiefly interested in the same things that hold such fascination for us today: interesting people living in interesting times - and he had a talent for showing them.(..) They cannot pretend to flashy, easy charm, but that is the beauty of the best photography."

Wojciech Nowicki, A dim light. The photographs of Michał Greim (1828-1911), Krakow 2013



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The Rag-and-Bone Jew, 1870s-1880s, albumen print. Another copy is also known, annotated in the photographer's hand: "Cholerya, known by the local servants as the rag-and-bone man, buyer of dead's man effects. They also call him the Backyard Jackal...
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Agnieszka Pawlus
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Post Posted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 4:25 am      Post subject: Michał Greim's photographs - the exhibition in Kraków
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"A Moldavian dwarf and a nobleman of the Podolian race from the Chocim region", 1870s-1880s, albumen print

Description from the exhibition catalog:

"There is a double photograph: in the middle a box - not a prop, just a rather old box. Its use here is as gauge, for this photograph it is a difference. The description on the back: "A Moldavian dwarf and a nobleman of the Podolian race from the Chocim region", as if the subjects were, say, cows or thoroughbred horses (this is obviously a "mask" comment only possible from our present-day perspective: Greim and his contemporaries saw nothing odd about the comment - because they could not have). The dwarf really is of stunted stature, a miniature of human with the characteristic deformities, short-and baggy-legged. His sheepskin hat is planted defiantly on his head, but it has flopped over like a garden gnome's cap and rather than transforming him into a truculent specimen of manliness, it merely underscores his dwarfishness. (Add to that his torn overcoat, hanging in tatters off his back, and to that his stick, an ordinary, common-or-garden hacked off stick, which he is using like a staff or a cane. The dwarf carries inside himself his dwarfism and poverty, and from beneath his only protection, his overcoat, his bare chest is visible because his dirty shirt is gaping so wide that it has got lost somewhere under his coat lapels. He wears his fate in the same way he wears his muddy boots.)
The box in the middle of the photographs is bisected by a light-colored band: this is in fact a two photographs, a photo-montage, two photographs on the negative - first one side and then the other. On the right the "nobleman of the Podolia race" is sitting on it (or on another, identical one), only it's on its side - other residents of the Chocim area were to pose for photographs on the same box. Even seated he is taller than the dwarf standing. Greim's observation that there are very tall and very short people in the world is a naive photographic comparison, a dalliance fashionable in his day, which has not made it unscathed across the sea of time that separates me from him. I look at the photograph and think that's not what attracts me about it. I pay more attention to the man, not even as a nobleman, but precisely as a man sitting on a crate: serene and resolute, his head slightly cocked. I decipher his attire garment by garment: the same kind of hat as the dwarf's, a clumsily made sheepskin, white trousers and a knee-length skirt, probably linen (and a drawstring bag on his knee, the itinerant peasant must-have); soft shoes, probably straw, muddy most of the way up. They are both muddy, like many people in these photographs. Mud and simple materials, unshaven faces, the minimum of ornament. A simple life, or: the nineteenth century Podolia, poverty as a way of life"


Wojciech Nowicki, A dim light. The photographs of Michał Greim (1828-1911), Krakow 2013



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"A Moldawan dwarf and a nobleman of the Podolian race from the Chocim region, 1870s-1880s, albumen print"
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"A Moldawan dwarf and a nobleman of the Podolian race from the Chocim region, 1870s-1880s, albumen print"
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Agnieszka Pawlus
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Post Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2013 5:40 am      Post subject: Michał Greim's photographs - the exhibition in Kraków
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Today's picture: Woman at Chocim fair, 1870s-1880s, albumen print


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Woman at Chocim fair, 1870s-1880s, albumen print
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Elzbieta Porteneuve
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Post Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2013 6:42 am      Post subject:
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Very interesting pictures.

How poor were they.

I am just coming back from Warsaw, and saw on a document stating Polish citizenship, dated March 1939, a stamp: Exempt from fiscal fee due to the poverty // Uwolniono od oplaty skarbowej z powodu ubostwa. My heart almost broke.

Best,
Elzbieta
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Agnieszka Pawlus
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Post Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2013 9:32 am      Post subject: Michał Greim's photographs - the exhibition in Kraków
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Shepherds in the Kurułowce field, Uszyca, 1870s-1880s, albumen print. Another copy of this photograph is known, annotated, in the author's hand: "Shepherds in Kuryłowice, Janek posed" (Janek was Jan, Greim's son).

Elżbieta - after your post I have tried to find some more cheerful picture, but there is no, in the entire album...



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Shepherds in the Kurułowce field, Uszyca, 1870s-1880s, albumen print. Another copy of this photograph is known, annotated, in the author's hand: "Shepherds in Kuryłowice, Janek posed" (Janek was Jan, Greim's son).
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Agnieszka Pawlus
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Post Posted: Fri Aug 02, 2013 6:22 am      Post subject: Michał Greim's photographs - the exhibition in Kraków
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Nobleman 100 years old and more, Pudłowiec, Kamieniec country, 1870s-1880s, albumen print


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Nobleman 100 years old and more, Pudłowiec, Kamieniec country, 1870s-1880s, albumen print
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Shellie
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Post Posted: Fri Aug 02, 2013 8:03 pm      Post subject: Re: Michał Greim's photographs - the exhibition in Kraków
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Aga Pawlus wrote:
Today's picture: Woman at Chocim fair, 1870s-1880s, albumen print


Aga,
These photos are amazing! Some of my favorite photos of our ancestors that I've seen yet! The photo of the Woman at Chocim fair is so striking - her bare, muddy feet a reminder that many of our ancestors went without shoes every day. How odd it must have been to wear shoes every day if they emigrated to America.

Thank you so much for posting these, I am eager to see more photos soon!
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sheep17
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Post Posted: Sat Aug 03, 2013 4:34 pm      Post subject: Michael Grime's photos
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The picture of the nobleman didn't fit into my perception of a Polish noble, based on photos I've seen in the US. But it is probably more accurate.

Thank you for posting them, Aga. Please show us more.

sheep17
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Agnieszka Pawlus
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Post Posted: Mon Aug 05, 2013 8:40 am      Post subject:
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Thank you for all your comments and opinions. Sheep17: I was also surprised, when I saw all these nobleman's photos on the exhibition. This is definitely not the image of nobility that we have. But on the other hand, it was the most numerous group of nobility, so called "szlachta zagrodowa". They lived in wooden homesteads, they were farming by themselves. Sometimes the only difference from the peasants were: the coat of arms and all of the privileges of the nobility (such as the tax and military service freedom). Just enough to watch the famous "Potop" movie:


[html-link]



And, of course, I will share some more pictures with you with pleasure.
Today: "Church collection by the roadside", 1870s-1880s, albumen print



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"Church collection by the roadside", 1870s-1880s, albumen print
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Last edited by Agnieszka Pawlus on Tue Aug 06, 2013 2:08 am; edited 1 time in total
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Henryk
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Post Posted: Mon Aug 05, 2013 12:16 pm      Post subject:
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Seeing these pictures, with the men wearing trousers, except possibly the Jew in the first picture, reminded me of something my mother told me. She said her grandfather told her, when he was young, he wore a "skirt"; I've forgotten the Polish word.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trousers
This article does not say much on this apparel in Poland, but it does say:
Quote:
In order to modernize, Tsar Peter the Great issued a decree in 1701 commanding every Russian, other than clergy and peasant farmers, to wear trousers.

Also that skirts were worn in the Balkans, including Greece.
Has anyone else heard of men wearing skirts in Old Poland.
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Agnieszka Pawlus
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Post Posted: Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:43 am      Post subject: Michał Greim's photographs - the exhibition in Kraków
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Henryk, as for your question: for sure people in Old Poland, and in general all Slaves wore long shirts (a knee-length). But what about the trousers? When people have started to wore them in this part of Europe? I do not know. If I will find something interesting about it I will let you know.

And today's picture I have chosen for you:

"Types of Bessarabia. A subject of the tsar from Chocim country", 1870s-1880s, albumen print



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"Types of Bessarabia. A subject of the tsar from Chocim country", 1870s-1880s, albumen print
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Agnieszka Pawlus
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Post Posted: Wed Aug 07, 2013 3:47 am      Post subject: Michał Greim's photographs - the exhibition in Kraków
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"Oxen harnessed to a cart", 1870s-1880s, albumen print


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"Oxen harnessed to a cart", 1870s-1880s, albumen print
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Agnieszka Pawlus
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Post Posted: Thu Aug 08, 2013 7:21 am      Post subject: Michał Greim's photographs - the exhibition in Kraków
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"A Jew from Podolia", 1870s-1880s, albumen print

Can you see a kind of a box, tied to his forehead? This is a tefillin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tefillin .



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"A Jew from Podolia", 1870s-1880s, albumen print
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Agnieszka Pawlus
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Post Posted: Fri Aug 09, 2013 5:46 am      Post subject: Michał Greim's photographs - the exhibition in Kraków
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"Wisznioski the hangman in Kamieniec" 1870s-1880s, albumen print


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"Wisznioski the hangman in Kamieniec" 1870s-1880s, albumen print
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MDuplaga
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Post Posted: Sat Aug 10, 2013 2:04 am      Post subject: Michal Greim's photpgraphs - the exibition in Krakow
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Dear Aga,

I also really appreciate seeing all these photos from the exhibition. It is so important that they have a date range. I am always interested in seeing photos that give a date range as it gives me a guideline when trying to date my own photos taken in Poland. In the United States, I can find many examples of various dated photographs, however, the clothing and the setting is so much different in the U.S. than in Poland. It makes it impossible to find "like" items in the photos to use as a comparison point. Therefore, it is a great help to see photos that originated in Poland and are also dated! Identifying the date of a family photo can lead to identifying one or more people in the photo, which is vitally important to genealogical work. I hope that in the future you will continue to post more photos that originated in Poland and are also dated.

I would also like to compliment you on your contribution to Polish Origins regarding the "Cultural" subjects that you have chosen to share with all of us!

Thank you,
MaryAnne
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